The Ugandan government is scaling up its investment in the Karamoja region, focusing on improving food security and nutrition.
Collaborating through the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), various interventions are currently ongoing.
These include sustainable land management practices, climate-smart agriculture, vaccine trials, agricultural mechanization, clean seed development, and the enhancement of crop varieties.
Dr. Paul Okullo, the Director for research at NARO emphasized government’s dedication to addressing food security challenges in Karamoja through extensive research.
Accordingly, NARO, in partnership with district agriculture officers is conducting trials of multiple crop varieties tailored to the region’s unique conditions.
This initiative aims to identify crop varieties that thrive in the arid environment, offering Karamoja’s farmers more resilient and productive options.
“In Kotido, the primary challenge has been drought. We are conducting trials with cover crops such as canavalia and observing significant benefits, including increased moisture retention and erosion reduction. In my pilot garden, I use contour banding and microponds to capture runoff water during the rainy season, which is then utilized during the dry season. It’s a successful approach,” noted Benard Obin Eria, an agricultural officer in Kotido.
One significant development is the tractor hire scheme, which benefits local farmers and has contributed to improved yields.
This mechanization effort not only eases the burden of manual labour but also enhances the efficiency of agriculture in Karamoja
Farmers who have benefited from the tractor hire scheme have reported improved yields.
Sam Charles Okello is one of them.
“In Morulem Sub County, we have ploughed over 200 acres of land and planted various crop varieties. This is a significant achievement, but the limited availability of tractors means we face ongoing challenges.”
According to Silver Ogwang, the regional coordinator of the tractor hire scheme, tractors are currently available for hire at shs80,000 per acre, but the high demand underscores the need for additional tractors to meet the region’s agricultural needs.
Additionally, NARO is engaged in vaccine trials to combat tickborne diseases, a persistent concern for livestock health in the region.
Scientists are dedicated to developing innovative solutions that safeguard the well-being of Karamoja’s livestock and, by extension, the livelihoods of its communities.
Dr. Boma, the acting program leader for the Animal Resources Research Program, stated that Tickborne diseases pose a significant threat to animal health and productivity in Karamoja. And that they are working to develop innovative solutions to address this issue.
The collaborative efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture and NARO are set to have a positive and lasting impact on the resilience and prosperity of Karamoja’s people.
Several research scientists at NARO are deeply committed to enhancing crop varieties suited to Karamoja’s arid conditions .
Dr. Samuel Kayongo, the head of program for crop and natural resources told Nile post that in recent years they resolved issues related to armyworm and emerging pests.
“Current breeding techniques in Karamoja incorporate resistance to drought and diseases, promote good agronomic practices, and adopt climate-smart agriculture, all aimed at enhancing farmer resilience during periods of drought.”
Dr. Raphael Ojara, the seed expert at NARO disclosed that the Karamoja Zonal research hub is actively multiplying various seeds to produce high-quality seeds for different farmer groups across Karamoja.
The effort extends to planting a variety of crops such as sorghum, green gram, maize, and cowpeas, totaling 400 acres in Lorengedwat.
Dr. Muwanga Samuel, the senior research officer, highlighted Karamoja’s significant challenge with drought and emphasized the introduction of multiple drought-resistant and disease-resistant legume crops as part of the ongoing efforts.
As these initiatives progress, the region can look forward to greater agricultural productivity, improved livestock health, and an overall enhanced quality of life for its residents.