Govt, UNDP and FAO project boosts food production in Karamoja

December 21, 2022

Christine Aleu working on her garden

UNDP Uganda/ Joel Akena

Due to occurrence of extreme climatic conditions, agro-pastoral communities in the Karamoja sub-region that depend on rainfed agriculture have been challenged by the increased frequency and severity of these climatic extremes. Consequently, these vulnerable populations have suffered food insecurity and malnutrition leading to loss of lives and livestock.

The effects of climate change, such as protracted drought, high environmental temperatures, unpredictable rainfall amounts, high soil erosion following flash floods, an increase in crop/livestock pests and diseases, and climate change led to food insecurity, hunger and poverty.

In response, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) are implementing the "Fostering Sustainability and Resilience for Food Security in Karamoja Region" project to address the food insecurity challenges in the area. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is funding this five-year initiative, which runs from 2018 to 2023, with a total budget of US$7,139,450 from GEF.

Transforming lives

Now in its final year of implementation, the project has many beneficiaries who speak highly of how it has impacted and transformed their lives. 

During a mission to the Karamoja sub-region, Christine Aleu, a 54-year-old widow from Katanga village in Nadunget sub-county, Moroto district, said she has struggled to provide for her 11 children’s needs such as clothing, food, health and education since the loss of her husband in 2012.

Home Based Care, a UNDP-funded civil society organization that assists vulnerable women and children in the Karamoja sub-region, discovered Christine. She was assigned to a women's group and trained in fundamental agricultural techniques, including how to grow vegetables like spinach, cabbage, carrots and tomatoes. She also learned how to use basic irrigation techniques to water her garden during dry spells and how to make homemade pesticides to protect her garden from toxic pesticides. But most importantly, she discovered how to save money by selling her extra agricultural produce.

Christine Aleu, at her garden in Nadunget sub-county, Moroto district

Speaking about how the project has transformed her life, Christine Aleu said, "Through this project, I have learned a lot about how to make natural pesticides and protect my vegetable crops. I have also learned about basic irrigation techniques and when to water my gardens, which is between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. in the morning and from 4:30 p.m. until 7 p.m in the evening. Additionally, I have learned about basic agricultural practices like mulching and crop spacing which have increased my crop yields. I can now support myself and raise my children on my own; and I make a commitment to share this knowledge with others in the neighborhood.”

Growing vegetables has emerged as a practical entry point for advancing sustainable land management techniques and provides a temporary fix for poverty and malnutrition in the project area. Vegetables are quick to mature and can be produced throughout the brief region's rainy seasons.

Climate-smart agriculture practices yield benefits.

Over 1,890 members (50 percent women) of 63 agro-pastoral field schools (APFS) groups have received training from MAAIF since the project's launch, and 35 micro-grant recipient organizations have assisted the farmers’ groups with a variety of resources to help them implement climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices and water and soil conservation methods for economic resilience. The benefits have been remarkable.

Just like Christine, several communities in the areas where this food security project has been implemented in Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Nabilatuk, Kaabong, Karenga and Kotido districts have been empowered in different ways, to enhance their food security status, without causing further environmental degradation. Overall, the project has reached out to 10,317 farmers (54 percent of whom are women). These have been reached through 252 Agro-Pastoral Field Schools and 27 Community Based Organizations (CBOs).

Christine’s healthy vegetable seedlings

Communities, just like Christine, have been supported to acquire and grow early-maturing maize (Longe 8H), participate in multiplication of seed for sorghum variety (NAROSorg 2), green grams variety (NAROgram1 and 2), and to improve their soil fertility using inorganic fertilizers. Twenty-six hectares of woodlots were established for community utilization and 260 hectares of rangelands were put under integrated natural resource management in six districts, making them more productive.

Promoting alternative livelihoods activities

The Karamoja sub-region depends majorly on cattle keeping, but its cattle breeds are genetically of low production and the natural grasses that feed its animals are nutritionally inadequate given the number of animals kept; in the long run, fueling the rustling culture and leading to land degradation.

Women and youth have been trained on Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices and supported to engage in alternative livelihood activities such as vegetable production, commercial seed production and beekeeping. A total of US$700,000 (about Shs 2.52 billion) was disbursed to 27 community-based organisations (CBOs) as Low-Value Grants. This money has been used to acquire apiary equipment, improved seed and post-harvest handling equipment like tarpaulins, cereal drying yards, metallic food storage silos and PICs bags.

Also, establishment of water for production infrastructure is ongoing in each project district, to support development of micro-irrigation sites and supply of water for livestock consumption. MAAIF is establishing these structures in districts to address water shortage for livestock production and reinforcing them with training and equipping veterinarians with artificial insemination and veterinary kits to support management of livestock diseases.

Owing to climate impacts on agriculture and food systems, millions of people face significant challenges to their food security and means of subsistence. The agricultural climate problem necessitates integrated strategies for increasing productivity, improving adaptive capacity and lowering net emissions. The agency of rural female farmers is critical to increasing agricultural production and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include ensuring food security (SDG 2) and combating the dangers of climate change (SDG 13).