Small-scale Women Farmers Devise Mechanisms to Combat Desertification and Drought
In Uganda, forest cover loss has increased to an estimated 200,000 hectares annually and about 10% of the population in the Southern and Northern parts experience drought related water scarcity annually. Adjumani district and other West Nile sub-region districts have always been affected by drought during the months of May and June in the first planting season and during the second planting season, small-scale farmers are affected by drought in the months of November, December, January and February. In this period, drought paralyzes the agriculture and most of crops including groundnuts, maize, cowpeas and vegetables like dodo, okra dries up. This affects the household income as women small-scale farmers sell and get money from the sale of the vegetables and other products for their livelihood.
On 17th June 2021, small-scale women farmers in Adjumani district joined the rest of the world to commemorate the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought focusing on the seed resilience in times of desertification and drought in a community meeting. The event took place at Orupet Farmer Field School in Pakele Town Council, Kelukwesi-Mgbonjo cell and was graced by 20 small-scale women farmers. This day comes at a time when the world is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic that has also made government to focus mostly on fighting the pandemic than other challenges like desertification and drought which may have a long-term effect thereafter.
Women small-scale farmers during the community meeting discussed the causes of land degradation that leads to desertification and drought. The meeting identified deforestation where people cut down trees for charcoal, firewood, timber and to get land for agriculture without replacing the trees they have cut. Women small-scale farmers agreed that soil erosion causes land degradation as a result of human actions.
“When drought comes, the women are the most affected as they are the ones to provide food for the family. During this period women should be strong and share experiences for others to survive during the periods of desertification and drought”. Margaret Masudio, Farmer leader – Adjumani district.
“For us here in Adjumani, we are very close to Sahara Desert and the strong wind from the North blows and it extends the desert towards us in Northern Uganda causing high temperatures leading to drought. Acan Betty, Small-scale farmer – Adjumani district.
During the community meeting, small-scale farmers focused on human actions that causes desertification and drought. They identified poor farming practices where some farmers use inorganic pesticides and herbicides which results to soil exhaustion. Over grazing is yet another cause of desertification that women small-scale farmers confirmed that destroys the vegetation cover.
During the women community meeting, the women small-scale farmers discussed the impacts of desertification and drought. The meeting agreed that desertification and drought results to hunger and malnutrition due to the reduction in food and seed production. The women small-scale farmers also concluded reduced household income hence poverty as a result of low engagement in agriculture which is the source of livelihood for many households. In addition to that, the women testified that desertification results in seed insecurity in the farming communities as small-scale farmers end up eating seeds they have stored for planting.
“Small-scale farmers are always faced with food and seed insecurity in times of drought. In that period we just stay at home since we can’t go to our gardens to dig which leaves us with no food to eat and no money to take care of our homes as we rely on agriculture for everything” Lagua Betty, Small-scale farmer – Adjumani district.
The women community meeting highlighted key actions that the government and citizens should do in order to combat desertification and drought in Uganda.
1. Government should train citizens on the use of energy saving stoves to minimize on the excessive use of firewood and charcoal that results to deforestation.
2. Government should support the construction of small-scale irrigation schemes in farming communities to ensure food and seed security.
3. Citizens should plant trees to conserve the environment hence reducing desertification and drought.
4. Government should prosecute those encroaching in forests and swamps to conserve the natural resources.
5. Government should promote ecological organic agriculture as it ensures soil conservation in restoring the degraded land.
“In order to build our seed resilience in the periods of desertification and drought, women small-scale farmers should learn to save seeds for planting in the next season to ensure seed and food security. After harvesting our products, we should eat some and store some for planting when the planting season comes”. Acan Betty, Small-scale farmer – Adjumani district