Modern conservation helps farmers prosper in the drylands

 Sustainable Land Management in Uganda
Ugandan farmer David Muhoozi with his crops, greatly improved after a UNDP-supported programme provided supplies and training for sustainable land management. (Photo: UNDP Uganda)

In the Lyantonde district of Uganda, farmer David Muhoozi Kiseetula is seeing big changes in his harvest – and his life – after his farmers’ cooperative received a grant for education and instruction on new farming methods.

“I used to harvest less than 100 kilos of maize from my garden. Today, I harvest 250 kilos,” says the 58-year-old father of eight. David owns a one-acre banana plantation, a large maize garden, beans, stretches of eucalyptus trees and several pigs.

Key Highlights

  • The project has benefitted 400 farmers, increasing crop yields among pilot communities by 200 to 300 percent.
  • The project was implemented by Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries in six districts, home to 1.5 million people
  • The Norwegian Government provided funding of US $1,644,000 for the two-year project through the UNDP/Drylands Development Centre in South Africa.
  • Uganda made a US $23,040 contribution, which supported the installation of rain gauges in the six districts and training for district officers on how to use the new equipment.

His group, the Kiyinda Cooperative Society, received a US $21,000 grant from a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) pilot project on sustainable land management, providing education for David and other farmers about farming methods that have improved their crop yields and enabled them to improve the marketing of their produce.

To prevent soil erosion and conserve water during dry spells, farmers have been taught how to dig trenches in their gardens and use dry grass and other manure to trap moisture in the ground, as an alternative to irrigation.

Many of them have also planted trees to replace those damaged or cut down for charcoal and firewood, making this income source more sustainable in the long-term.

In addition to facilitating learning, part of the grant to the Kiyinda farmers’ society was used to purchase livestock, and construct water tanks. Two engines were purchased to run a maize mill owned by the association, which is providing farmers with affordable chaff, which they mix with other feed for livestock.

About 200 kilometres north, Stephen Musisi and his wife Nakato have seen similar improvements.

The couple had seen their crop harvest grow smaller each year as a result of poor farming methods, erratic rainfall and reduced soil nutrients in the Nakaseke district – part of the cattle corridor and one of the driest regions in Uganda.

But after their farmers’ cooperative received a grant from the pilot project, Stephen and 100 other farmers in his village set up demonstration farms on small plots of land, where they piloted and then adopted different sustainable agricultural practices.

In addition, farmers were supplied with seeds, chemical fertilisers and spray pumps. As a result, Stephen and his wife saw their harvest double.

“I can already see the difference in the maize and beans we have grown this season compared to the past season,” notes Musisi.

At least 400 farmers have benefitted from the project. As a result, yields have increased by 200 to 300 percent for maize and beans among pilot communities. These practices are now being adopted by local authorities and farmer groups, and replicated by other farmers in these regions.