Farmers Asked to Trust Weather Information

3591 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Uganda National Meteorological Authority issued accurate weather forecasts but farmers did not use the forecasts and advisories. Many districts have as result realized crop failures which should have been avoided.

When Martin Odong was growing up in Karamoja, he saw his father prepare land in February, wait until mid-March to plant maize.

Good yield was expected because there would be good rain for crops to survive to maturity. But the weather has changed according to Odongo, a farmer at Naitakwai Parish in Nadunget Sub County in Moroto District.

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Martin Odong had planted ten acres of maize expecting a bumper harvest last season but all withered. Odong standing in his sun-scorched garden said he has lost three million shillings he has invested in the farm.

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Odong is not the only farmer in the country reporting crop failure in the last season due to early onset of drought.

Farmers in maize growing areas like Kasese, Masindi, Kiboga , Kiryandongo and most of the eastern Uganda districts are counting losses because the rains did not sustain the crop to grow to maturity.

It is emerging that farmers could have avoided or minimized the losses had they taken advantage of seasonal weather forecasts by Uganda National Meteorological Authority.

Godfrey Mujuni, the Data Center Manager at Uganda National Meteorological Authority says farmers in in the country continue to take farming decisions based on climatology rather scientific weather forecasts. He says with climate change, things no longer behave the same way.

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Uganda National Meteorological Authority has been issuing seasonal forecasts as part of efforts to guide climate - dependent activities like farming, road construction, transport and others. The forecast also come with area-specific advisories to guide farmers in different zones of the country.

But the advisories have hardly been heeded to by farmers. Some farmers have received the information with skepticism and simply ignored them.
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A former official with National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) who declined to be quoted said the forecasts are available but farmers cannot access them to what he called a breakdown in agricultural extension.

He said there is a deep divide between the science and its supposed end-users. He said with such a gap, very little of the science arrives on the farm.

Sarah Namubiru, the District Production Officer in Luwero district said weather forecasts says much as the forecasts are not one hundred percent accurate, farmers and other users should trust them because they have turned out predicting the rain forecasts in specific areas.

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She says it is utterly important that planners in each region and each locality to follow and disseminate weather to farmers plan.

With the current situation, experts are saying rain is one of the critical elements for crop to survive. They say there is also need to identify crop varieties that can stand dryness and inadequate soil moisture.