Kapchorwa: Extremely hot to rainy weather has meant prolonged delays of planting for farmers from the Sebei sub-region and yet the new season is already witnessing excessive rains.
In his 30 years of farming, William Chelengat says he has never been late planting maize like in the last three years.
“The farming communities no longer have enough compared to 15 years ago; these days when it rains, it sometimes falls too much, making the crops over-grow or not germinate,” says 75-year-old Chelengat.
“Yet when it shines, sometimes it goes on for a long time, withering the crops,” a demoralised Yusuf Muhamud Mudondo, the general manager at Kaserem Area Cooperative – KACE, said in an interview with theCooperator.
At KACE alone, Mudondo says farmers only managed 500 metric tonnes (MTs) of maize in the first season, far below the expected 700MTs, while those growing beans could only produce 140MTs instead of the usual 200MTs last year.
Coffee farmers were also not spared by the erratic weather and managed to harvest only 250MTs instead of the 300MTs in the same season last year.
There have been quite a few rainy weeks in Sebei since the second planting season started in August and it is getting in the way of farmers’ work.
The farmers and their leaders are wary of the erratic weather, which they fear could leave many struggling to make ends meet if the pattern continues.
Saida Chemongesi, a soya bean farmer, also a member of KACE farmers’ cooperative located in Kaserem, say the weather is delaying their second season planting, so even though some crops are in, they can’t do anything with them.
“I had prepared for harvesting this month but I am unable to do so because water has submerged most parts of my farm,” Chemonges said.
In 2016, heavy rains in the first quarter and prolonged sunshine also left several farmers counting losses, undermining food security in the country.
The Sebei sub-region, comprising savannah grassland and mountainous landform, is potentially very productive for growing crops such as coffee, beans, soybeans, maize, tomatoes, and Irish potatoes.
Meteorological Authority Speaks Out
The Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) says the situation might even get a little worse in the near future.
Festus Luboyera, the executive director of UNMA, told theCooperator that Sebei is one of the eight agricultural zones in Uganda which will experience above-normal rainfall in the months of September to December.
Luboyera added that those predicted to receive above-normal rainfall, exceeding the average amount received over the last 30 years, are Busoga, Bugisu, Teso, Lango, Bukedi, and Acholi, and Karamoja zones being the others
The meteorological agency is urging farmers to start early field preparations for early planting. He advised farmers to plant long maturing crops such as maize, cassava, coffee, and sweet potatoes at the start of the rainfall season this month – September.