The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), together with the Government of Uganda, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Food Day celebrations this week at Nabuin Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Nabuin ZARDI) in Nabilatuk District, Karamoja sub-region, North-eastern Uganda.
The event was commemorated under the theme: Our actions are our future. A zero hunger world by 2030 is possible.
President Museveni, was represented by the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Honorable Vincent Ssempijja as Chief Guest.
In remarks delivered by Hon. Ssempijja, the President noted that whereas the country’s population continues to grow at a rapid rate of 3.2 percent annually, agricultural productivity is only 2.9 percent each year, leaving a food gap that must be addressed if the country is to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.
The President further stated that to address the drought challenges associated with climate change, the government – through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries – has prioritized the provision of irrigation especially for smallholder farmers as well as labor saving technologies.
“Government has earmarked funds this financial year to construct and repair 15 irrigation schemes around the country including Doho phase II, Mubuku paseII, Wadelai, Tochi and Ngenge, Atari among others. Increased usage of irrigation will put Ugandans in a better position to produce more food for both domestic and export needs,” he said.
The President urged industrialists and the private sector to set up assembling or manufacturing plants for solar powered water pumps that would enable the government to roll out a country-wide irrigation programme.
The call to private sector was echoed by the acting FAO Representative in Uganda, Ms Priya Gujadhur, urging the government to create opportunities for greater private sector investment in agriculture, as well as to boost social protection programmes for the vulnerable populations.
During the celebrations, a solar powered irrigation facility and green house, supported by FAO, were officially commissioned at Nabuin ZARDI, to be used to train and empower farmers in the region, to engage in intensive farming of high value crops and foster food security in the semi-arid region.
According to Ms. Gujadhur, the irrigation facility will help farmers in the region to enhance their resilience to erratic weather patterns and allow them to grow produce even during long dry spells.
The irrigation facility is one of four such facilities constructed at national agricultural research stations across the country, through the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) Project implemented by FAO and funded by the European Union.
The green house and irrigation technology are ideal for drylands such as Karamoja, which receives only one rain season in a year.
Ms. Gujadhur also noted that FAO is looking to introduce the technology in refugee settlements and host communities to enhance food production on the small plots of land which the Government allocates to refugees.
“With the green house, we’re saving a lot of space. One greenhouse measures 9X24 meters and it can grow crops equivalent to three acres of land”, she said. “With this intensive production, communities will have a chance to produce collectively on larger plots of land and therefore benefit collectively as shocks from hunger and malnutrition are reduced”, she added.
She urged development partners in Uganda to continue supporting efforts towards climate change mitigation and enhancing food security by investing in modern technologies saying that “climate change effects are exacerbating and the number of hungry people in the world is on the rise.”
She encouraged the Government, private sector, research organizations and the donor community to accelerate efforts to end hunger by 2030 by accelerating and upscaling the use of such irrigation technologies, throughout Karamoja and Uganda at large.
One of the large-scale developments by FAO, together with the European Union, is a nationwide afforestation project through which about 30 000 hectares of commercial plantations will be planted by the year 2020.
Of these, about 1000 hectares are being planted in Karamoja. This effort will provide fuel wood and timber for commercial use, thereby reducing pressure off natural forests.