An information service programme in Uganda is addressing reduced farm productivity in the country – caused mainly by drought – and enabling farmers to better plan their planting season by enhancing their access to weather information and recommended agronomic practices. The programme is expected to increase the income of farm households and contribute to curbing food insecurity in the region.
The impacts of climate change on the social and economic aspects of life in sub-Saharan Africa continue to escalate. Yield losses due to changing climatic conditions threaten food security.
Further, population growth and the demands of industrialisation have led to the encroachment of forested and water catchment areas on cultivatable land. This has also resulted in changes in the hydrological cycle in various ecosystems.
For many years, agriculture has been the backbone of Uganda’s economy, contributing approximately 37% of gross domestic product (GDP) and employing over 80% of women who contribute about 75% of agricultural production. The Ugandan Government has noted that severe drought is significantly threatening this contribution. In 2016, at least 1.3 million Ugandans were threatened with starvation due to decreased farm productivity through prolonged drought. Weather experts predict a continuation of the current hot and dry weather in most parts of Uganda. The Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), through their membership with the Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE) and the Uganda Cooperative Alliance (UCA), had previously implemented projects focusing on climate change and promoting climate smart agricultural concepts. These had focused primarily on climate change adaptation through the adoption of climate-smart practices that included farrowing, mulching, water storage and ecosystem conservation. They targeted 1,000 farmers in western Uganda, but millions were still left vulnerable to the impacts of changing climate.
Based on this experience, EAFF in collaboration with stakeholders from CTA, aWhere (a weather satellite company), eLEAF (a company that predicts precipitation levels), Mercy Corps (data experts), EARS (a re-insurance company) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (an NGO dealing with agronomic information), responded to a call by the Netherlands Space Office and developed an innovative programme dubbed Market led User owned ICT 4 Ag enabled Information Services (MUIIS), a programme that addresses issues related to insurance, the weather and agronomy. The project aims to reach at least 350,000 farmers in 53 of the 113 districts of Uganda, and encourage them to take out drought insurance and enhance their access to weather and agronomic information. The project is expected to enable farmers to better plan their planting season based on weather information and recommended agronomic practices, while, at the same time, insure their crops against potential climate vagaries. In the long run, this will increase the income of farm households and contribute to curbing food insecurity.