By Otushabire Tibyangye
Climate change is real and has affected countries world over in different ways including harsh weather, rising temperatures, prolonged drought, floods and melting of icebergs among others.
Faced with such conditions experts believe that mitigation measures have to be put in place for communities to survive lest catastrophes will continue to hit poor countries especially in Africa.
Currently Zimbabwe is faced with shortage of water, electricity and drought and has appealed to the international community for help. In 2018 while Mozambique was grappling with floods and hurricanes, South Africa was facing water shortages.
As a mitigation measure, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has come up with an approach of transforming and reorienting agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security under climate change that has come to be known as “Climate Smart Agriculture”
Specifically, Climate Smart Agriculture aims to tackle three main objectives: sustainable increase agricultural productivity and incomes; adaption and building resilience to climate change; and reduction and/or removal of greenhouse gas emissions, where possible.
Greenhouse gas emissions has been proved to be o one of the worst offenders when it comes to generating the global greenhouse gas emissions deemed responsible for much climate change.
According to FAO estimates, in 2010 emissions from the agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors directly accounted for 22% of all total global emissions.
Uganda has also been affected by the vagaries of climate change and many farmers have seen their harvests dwindle due to unpredicted weather. In 2016 Isingiro District was hit by drought which affected the production of bananas and cattle. The population reached the brink of starvation and many animals died.
However people that had received training from Climate Change experts like Luka Kwesigabo, a farmer from Ruhimbo village in Kabingo Town Council were able to pull through.
The district natural resources officer Emmanuel Bwegye a climate change expert says some farmers that were trained in management of climate change were not as hard hit as those that depend on nature for survival.
Kwesigabo owns four acres of fruit trees, 10 of bananas and three for coffee. He also has livestock: 50 pigs, 20 goats, 15 cows and 30 sheep. He also grows beans, maize, cassava and sugarcane. Currently, he has 10 acres of beans-maize intercrop and also two acres of bananas specifically for brewing a local gin, commonly known as waragi.
Asked why he has diversified his farming, he says he has received training in Climate Smart Agriculture.
“We have been trained not relay on one activity but to diversify our farming so as to earn more from mixed farming,” he says. His kind of farming enhances the environment and natural resources; tapping runoffs to keep the soils moist, mulching and use of organic manure.
Armed with technical information from resourceful persons like Sedrach Muhangi, a climate change expert, the 49 year old Kwesigabo says he was compelled to diversify agriculture not only to earn a living but also to check environmental degradation. Isingiro, one of the districts in the cattle corridor, is heavily affected by land degradation and needs urgent attention.
His farm land too is vulnerable to soil erosion, destructive winds and occasional drought. “There were many galleys through which top soil was carried away. I was taught how to do mulching and trench digging among other measures,”Kwesigabo says
He has since embarked on smart agriculture. The trees not only give fruits but act as wind-breakers and also bring rain. Pine trees on the hillside stop water runoffs during the rainy season. Having dug trenches in the fruit, banana and coffee gardens, he has planted fodder trees like Calliandra and Lucerne to provide feed for animals and fuel-wood. The manure got from animal waste is used in the crop gardens.
Mulching helps retain moisture and fertility in the soils. Some of the mulches include maize stems after harvests which are rich in potassium.
He has benefited from the intervention through increased yields of maize and beans and increased milk production from dairy cattle. Manure from the livestock has been applied to the banana plantation, improving moisture and nutrient retention, which has contributed to higher yields.
How he earns from his enterprises. “I harvest two tone of coffee a year and earn Shs4m. Matooke yields Shs3m per month from 200 bunches, and Shs3m from 30 piglets per sale two times a year,” Kwesigabo explains.
The mangoes, avocadoes, jackfruits and tangerines earn him about Shs 2m per season. And there is also milk which he sells at Shs 800 per litre. On average, it is about Shs30m per annum.
Bush fires, lack of extension service, little water and tree cover and persistent dry seasons are major challenges facing Isingiro District. This, Kwesigabo says, has hindered the progress of climatic change mitigation yet the repercussions of climatic change in the district are very glaring.
Rising temperatures and an increased frequency of extreme weather events have direct and negative impacts on crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture productivity now and in the years to come, as clearly indicated in the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Vulnerable, farming-dependent populations in the developing world are particularly at risk. The drought that hit the district in 2016 is a perfect example.
But at the same time, the compelling need to deal with the challenges posed by climate change offers an opportunity to transform the way food systems use natural resources, improve agriculture’s sustainability and promote poverty reduction and economic growth, the publication adds.
Highlighting cases studies in “climate-smart agriculture” from around the globe, FAO’s document shows that many rural communities are already successfully making the transition to new forms of farming better suited to the rigors of a warmer world.
“A shift to climate-smart agriculture will not only help shield farmers from the adverse effects of climate change and offer a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but can also improve farm yields and household incomes, leading to stronger, more resilient communities,” says FAO Deputy Director-General Helena Semedo.