Stories tagged: Climate-smart agriculture

Lawrence Biyika Songa: The Cost of Climate Change for Ugandan Farmers

Q&A with Lawrence Biyika Songa, COP representative for Uganda

At the COP22 conference on climate change, held in Marrakech in November, the spotlight fell squarely on Africa and the impact of global warming on agriculture. Farming First caught up with Lawrence Biyika Songa, Uganda’s representative at the talks, to delve deeper into the issues facing farmers in the country.

FF: How is climate change affecting farmers in Uganda?

LBS: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarises climate change as any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This is equally true in Uganda. Unsustainable utilisation of natural resources and poor technological use has increased incidences of greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, 90 per cent of energy consumption in Uganda is met by firewood, amounting to 18 million tonnes of emissions a year.

The impact of such activity has been increased weather variability, with greater frequency and intensity of weather extremes, including high temperatures leading to prolonged drought and erratic rainfall patterns. These incidences are threatening Uganda’s environmental, social and economic development, including agriculture.

Changing weather patterns in Uganda are making it difficult for farmers in the country to plan using the traditional two planting seasons, which used to be much easier to predict. Previously the weather pattern indicated two good planting seasons, March to May and September to November. Now, however, rainfall sometimes continues during the dry seasons, and prolonged dry spells during rainy seasons make it difficult for farmers to plan ahead.

Other challenges related to climate change include tropical storms, wildfire, siltation, soil erosion, pests and diseases which are causing devastating loss to farmer’s yields.

So there are five main ways that climate change is impacting farming in Uganda: (i) the area suitable for agriculture is becoming unpredictable (ii) the length of the growing season is more difficult to forecast (iii) yield potentials are varying and decreasing (iv) the frequency and severity of extreme events (in particular droughts and floods) are extreme (v) the incidence of plant diseases are high. And, in the case of livestock climate change may affect production through: (i) impacts on the quantity and quality of feed (ii) increasing heat stress (iii) changes to and spread of livestock diseases and (iv) changes in water availability.

FF: Is climate change affecting Uganda’s economy?

LBS: Yes. The National Development Plan 2010-2015 on climatic projections indicates that Uganda’s temperatures are likely to increase in the range of 0.70 C to 1.50 C by 2020. As a consequence, it has placed Uganda in a more vulnerable position. The 2nd UN World Water Development Report 2006 shows that 70 per cent of the disasters in the country are linked to climate change. On average these disasters destroy about 800,000 hectares of crops, with an economic loss in excess of Ushs 120 billion (US$ 63.2million) per year.

Climate change and associated extreme weather incidents have also impacted public health. The 1994 El Niño floods resulted in sharp rises in lakes, wide spread flooding, and extensive soil erosion and landslides in Eastern parts of the country. It’s believed that more than 1,000 lives were lost and 11,000 hospitalised due to cholera and related illness, and about 150,000 people were displaced from their homes.

Meanwhile, the 2010-2011 droughts caused an estimated US$470 million losses in food crops, cash crops and livestock as a whole. This equates to about 16 per cent of the total value of these items in GDP for 2011. The current and future increased risks from flooding and droughts are in areas of existing poverty and therefore these events have serious consequences for local economies and food security.

FF: Are there any tools and technologies that are helping Ugandan farmers to adapt to climate change?

LBS: Yes, they are using more efficient water-management technologies such as advanced drip irrigation and solar irrigation. Agricultural research is also developing other new and effective approaches to adapt to climate change. For example, scientists are studying and using beneficial microbes from soil to strengthen plant resilience to increased drought, diseases and pests brought on by climate change.

Farmers are also actively participating in the collection of climate-related data. The information from millions of smallholders farmers monitoring daily weather changes, rainfall levels and patterns and soil health are shedding light on general climate trends and guiding farming practices.

Lastly, farmers are being advised not to plant on farm land with clogged water and for farmers living in mountainous areas, they are advised to practice terracing and lay farrows to reduce run offs from heavy rains

FF: What are the barriers preventing farmers from accessing these tools and technologies?

LBS: The ability of farmers’ to adapt varies enormously depending on the region and its wealth. Uganda’s farmers often lack basic resources and choices such as money as the adoption of these methods is difficult without access to credit and readily available funds. Millions of farmers in Uganda also lack access to information about the scope of climate level changes they are experiencing. Without such information, they are unable to plan and adjust their farming practices to be sustainable for the long term with new tools and technologies. Social networks among rural farmers always help spread the use of new technology, given the prevelant communal sense among Ugandan farmers. Finally, differences in expected returns from a new technology also affect individual’s adaptation decisions.

FF: Have you met many farmers that are struggling with successfully adapting to climate change?

LBS: In many Ugandan villages, smallholder farmers are struggling to use simple technologies to monitor extreme weather and its impacts on their families and community. They are finding it difficult to detect early indications of changing rainfall patterns that would likely effect the growing season. Secondly, farmers are struggling with how to identify and manage the planting of drought-tolerant crop varieties, exotic breeds and using low cost, simple drip irrigation due to illiteracy and cost management practices.

FF: How is the Ugandan government supporting farmers to adapt to climate change?

LBS: The government of Uganda has come up with priorities for adaptation options. In the National Climate Change Costed Implementation Strategy, the government of Uganda has identified eight strategic interventions for adaptation in the agricultural sector, with a proposed budget over the next 15 years of about US$297 million (MWE, 2012). Among these interventions are the promotion of adaptive crop varieties and livestock breeds, sustainable land management and agricultural diversification.

The government’s meteorological agency, UNMA, has provided and disseminated weather information and forecasts. Farmers are therefore advised to rely on expert advice as to when they should plant for the most favourable climate conditions. The government has also embarked on farmer sensitization and awareness campaigns. For example, experts have promoted the planting of grass on the steps of mountains among farmers living on the slopes of Mountain Elgon in Eastern Uganda and those from Mountain Rwenzori to stop run-offs from heavy rains.

Finally, farmers are being advised to grow quick maturing crops such as vegetables when there is a prediction of prolonged dry spells, and they are further advised to grow cereal crops which are tolerant to drought. NGOs are also helping the government through promotion of new agricultural technologies such as agricultural extension services, which provide farmers with information about agricultural practises, including sowing, adoption of improved seeds and chicken breeds.

FF: Do you think COP22 was indeed a ‘’COP of Action’’?

LBS: Yes, thanks to the Marrakech Proclamation of Climate Action and the Partnership for Global Climate Action as the conference’s main outcomes. The political commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement has been revived in the most ardent fashion with the Marrakech Proclamation.

Writing the rule book, or operational manual, of the Paris Agreement calls for a significant boost of transparency of action, including measuring and accounting emissions reductions, the provision of climate finance, and technology development and transfer. It also includes work to design the adaptation communications, which is the primary vehicle under the Paris Agreement to share individual adaptation efforts and support needs.

FF: What action do you think the global community should be taking?

LBS: Governments should initiate powerful coalitions of public and private partners in technology initiatives for weather. About two thirds of Africans now have mobile phones, including many in rural areas, and these could play an integral part in the collection of weather and soil data. Data collected by farmers on their phones could then be aggregated and analysed by designated research institutions and shared with farmers.

Local governments could also adjust disaster response plans to accommodate changes in weather patterns. For example, the city of Philadelphia recently implemented an emergency response plan to limit the health impact of increasingly frequent heat waves on its population. Philadelphia officials estimate that their heat response plan has already reduced heat-related deaths.

For individuals, governments, and businesses, adapting to climate change requires understanding and accepting the risks of regional climate change, assessing the immediate and long-term costs and benefits of adaptation strategies, and implementing adaptations that bring the most benefits relative to the cost and risk.

Featured image courtesy of Kate Holt/Africa Practice

Katrin Glatzel: Why Partnership is Key to Boosting Smallholders’ Resilience to Climate Change

In this guest post, Dr. Katrin Glatzel, lead author of the latest Montpellier Panel briefing paper explains why partnerships involved in climate-smart agriculture will be critical for boosting the resilience of African smallholder farmers. “Set for Success: Climate-Proofing the Malabo Declaration” is available online now. 

Crops, grazing land, fisheries and livestock are already negatively affected by climatic changes and extremes. The recent El Niño, likely to be the strongest on record, has affected the food security of a vast number of people across the world. Among them, millions of smallholder farmers in developing countries, who own less than one hectare of land, live on less than US$1 per day and do not grow enough food to feed their families. Continue reading

GACSA Forum: Making Agriculture “Climate-Smarter”

Last week, Farming First attended the Annual Forum of the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) in order to launch our latest animated video and series of case studies on climate-smart agriculture (CSA).

Our video was featured as part of the opening session of the conference, which was held at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome. Continue reading

GACSA Annual Forum on Climate-Smart Agriculture in Action

14th – 17th June 2016

Rome, Italy

The 2nd Annual Forum is devoted to showcasing climate-smart agriculture in action and will provide an open platform for dialogue, sharing experiences and agreeing on the way forward. These exchanges will bring out the lessons learned and enable identifying good CSA practices that can be scaled up; as well as gaps to be addressed through focused actions.

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Jhannel Tomlinson: Schools Without Walls

In this guest post, Jhannel Tomilnson, a student at the University of the West Indies explains how farmer field schools are helping Jamaican farmers access climate-smart agriculture training. This post is part of our ongoing partnership with Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD).

Agriculture is deemed one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change worldwide. This is particularly evident in developing countries where studies are showing how increased variability in rainfall is negatively impacting important cropping systems, the majority of which are rain-fed and operated by small farmers. This is true for the Caribbean, especially Jamaica where I am from. Climate change presents a clear threat to the nation’s food security, as the shifting growing seasons coupled with prolonged droughts have made farming increasingly difficult.There is thus an urgent need for the adoption of climate-smart practices, as these will clearly serve as a key tool for survival in times of change by reducing exposure to such impacts.  Continue reading

Winners of Louis Malassis and Olam Prizes Announced in Montpellier

The 2015 winners of the prestigious Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize and inaugural Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security were announced at the Third Global Science Conference in Montpellier on Monday.

The first prize of the evening, the inaugural Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security went to the SRI International Network and Resources Center at Cornell University, for its work on the method of Systems for Rice Intensification (SRI). SRI was developed in Madagascar 30 years ago by Henri Laulanié and is now spreading around the world. SRI methods have been shown to increase rice yields by 20 to 50%, often 100% and even more, with 25-50% reductions in water and 80-90% less seed.

Professor Uphoff, who accepted the prize on behalf of the SRI-Rice International Network told Farming First he would like to use to prize to gather the best scientists to assess work relating to SRI. “We think if we pursue this we are going to get a very solid understanding of how to make better use of our resources for rice, maize, wheat, sugarcane and many other crops,” he said.

The Louis Malssis International Scientific Prize for Young Promising Scientist went to Dr. Kazuki Saito, leader of the Africa-wide Rice Agronomy Task Force, based at AfricaRice.

“I have been awarded this prize for my work with promising technologies,” comments Dr. Saito. “They are still promising, like me, so we really need to disseminate this technologies to farmers on a large scale. My dream is to help produce more rice in Africa and at the end, export rice to Asia!”

The Louis Malssis International Scientific Prize for Distinguished Scientist went to Dr. Claire Lanaud, for her work on improving cocoa varieties. “This award is for us, a recognition of all the work we have done with our partners – it reinforces or scientific choice and is an encouragement to continue our effort to improve the living conditions of smallholder farmers,” Dr. Lanaud told Farming First.

The final prize of the evening, the Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize for Outstanding Career in Agriculture went to Professor Zeyaur Khan, for his work on the push-pull technology for combating pests and diseases. “I feel greatly honoured to receive this prize, it is one of the most prestigious prizes in agriculture,” said Professor Khan. He also told Farming First that it is his goal to reach one million households with push-pull technology by 2020, making 10 million people food secure.

Farming First attended as media partner, and captured the highlights from the ceremony. For more videos on each of the winners, visit Farming First TV.