Kampala: The National Agricultural Research Organization has recommended that Conservation Agriculture-based Sustainable Intensification (CASI) is adopted and mainstreamed in the agriculture extension arm for increased productivity among small holder farmers.
This was revealed during a National Policy Dialogue at Hotel Africana last week on Thursday 28thMarch 2019 following a six-year research project conducted in the districts of Nakasongola and Lira. The project was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research(ACIAR) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT).
During his opening remarks, the NARO Director General, Dr. Ambrose Agona said “for us to be able to move the 68% of our farming communities currently trapped in subsistence agriculture to the money economy, we urgently need to retool, skill and support the agriculture extension team across the country. Additional support is required to close the policy, institutional, social and innovations gaps.” He observed that Uganda has a total land area of 241,038 square kilometers and is inelastic. Though Uganda can feed up to 200 million people per year, this is not happening due high fragmentation of land as a result of a runaway population growth rate of 3.2%, poor access to high quality agro inputs including seeds, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers both inorganic and organic, drudgery, low mechanization, asymmetrical information flow on access to profitable markets. He called for integration of the best performing technologies and innovations in a value chain approach to enhance productivity, value addition, post-harvest handling and storage to optimize access to competitive markets.
The project dubbed Sustainable Intensification of Maize and Legumes for food security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA) had been implemented in six other countries and in Uganda was implemented by NARO in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Local Government through the District Production and Marketing Officers of Lira and Nakasongola districts. A few of the hindering factors that the researchers found on the ground included poor quality seed, poor post-harvest handling mechanisms, failure to open land on time and poor productivity. The Principal Investigator on the project, Dr. Drake Mubirupresented interventions undertaken by the research team as follows: introduction of drought tolerant and high yielding maize (Longe10H, PH5052, and UH5053) and bean (NABE14&15) varieties, small holder farmer mechanization practices like the ox-drawn tools that reduced on-farm labor requirements by 62%, improved maize and beans yields by 50% and 44% respectively, establishment of agricultural innovation platforms to facilitate training& information exchange and the use of improved agronomic practices like the use of permanent planting basins. Weather data applications, farmer groups and use of herbicides are some of the other factors that significantly contributed to the farmers’ success in Lira and Nakasongoladistricts under this project.
NARO Governing Council Chairperson, Prof. Joseph Obuanoted that due to the land tenure system in Uganda, most farmers are small holder farmers therefore “tractorization” may not immediately impact their agricultural practices. He recommended the adoption of the ox-drawn farm implements in the areas where it was applicable. The areas for consideration for improvement under Policy innovations included; development of multi-functional agricultural machinery, investment in the skills development area of fabrication, repair and maintenance of agricultural machinery, mainstreaming CASI training of all extension workers to improve on the advisory skillset they presently have and production of agricultural manuals in local languages using existing media channels and campaigns like the harvest money, farm clinics, Source of the Nile agricultural shows.