Conservation Agriculture in Karamoja, Uganda
The challenge of food insecurity in Karamoja, Uganda is persisting despite various interventions by government and development partners. This is largely due to bio-physical factors like low rainfall distribution and reliability, which has been extreme in this sub-region, resulting in multiple extended dry spells in the last decade. In Karamoja, cyclical droughts and erratic rainfall have affected crop production and pasture for livestock, thereby directly impacting the livelihoods of the local population, the majority of which are smallholder farmers. Moreover, livestock, which is an integral element of food security in Karamoja region, has also been decimated by diseases such as peste de petits ruminants (PPR) (goat plague), and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), while staple crops such as sorghum have been hard hit by crop fungus.
Coupled with high poverty levels and income insecurity, the situation has eroded people’s coping capacity, leaving them in a precarious vulnerable state. Moreover, the situation in Kaabong, as well as the rest of Karamoja, has been compounded by armed and violent conflict, and environmental disasters in the last two decades. This has threatened the populations’ traditional pastoral and agricultural based livelihoods, resulting in some of the worst human indicators in the country – in Kaabong 82% of the local population are considered poor, a significantly higher proportion than the national average of 37.5%. The persistence of food and income insecurity is an obstacle to the aspirations and dreams of most people to realize and attain self-reliance, to the full recovery and development of the region, and thus to the capacity of the region to adapt to climate change.
The main objective of the Conservation Agriculture project is to increase household food security and income security through innovative agriculture and the use of VSLAs/VICOBA among the Dodoth people. By improving soil water retention, and reducing susceptibility to erosion, conservation agriculture techniques fcan help to adapt to poor and unreliable rainfall, as mentioned above.
The project aims to:
- Increase the use of conservation agriculture for improved household livelihood and increased income in four sub counties in Kaabong district, Uganda.
- To establish and support School Peace Clubs in four sub counties of Karenga and Kamion, so as to promote peace and conflict resolution through dialogue, transformation for a peaceful co-existence in the four sub counties in Kaabong district.
- Strengthen DADO’s organizational and institutional capacity in order to make it more effective and efficient in providing livelihoods interventions in Kaabong, north Karamoja and its adjacent communities.
Methods and Tools
Smallholders in the region are varied in their education level, age and gender. There is also a poor saving culture amoungst the communities and a total absence of banking institutions.
To meet these varied needs DADO will adopt an iterative process comprising participatory training approaches that are tailored and adapted to local practices and conditions. This will support greater adoption of the new conservation gariculture techniques amongst the targeted smallholder farmers, women and youth, and VSLAs/VICOBA Groups.
The participatory trainings will be suceeded by strong follow up extension services to support the continued use and development of conservation agriculture practices. These will promote the interactive learning processes and knowledge sharing required to sustain the actions identified in the project.
The training will be designed using insights gained from using the Farmers Advisory Consultative Tool (FACT). This tool is used to assess the farmers needs and capability to withstand climate and other environmental shocks. Farmers are always consulted about the means to which they use to mitigate and adapt climate changes.
The main components of the implementation strategy will be conducted in methodological approach as follows:
Training of DADO staff in Conservation Agriculture: During the first year of the project, DADO staff would be trained in conservation agriculture. The main reason or purpose of this training is to build staff as well as the organisation’s capacity to be able to implement the project with farmers successfully, and be in position to address any challenges that may be experienced in the course of this project period, so that the project achieves its overall objective.
Mobilization, sensitization and selection of individual farmers: This activity would be done after capacity building of DADO staff. Farmers will be mobilized and sensitized, and and the basis of this individual farmers will be selected to work with the organisation in the course of this project. These individual farmers will be trained as below.
Training of selected farmers in conservation farming: With the aid of participatory learning for those with limited literacy background, the training of selected farmers will be based in the individual farmer’s fields. Besides DADO staff, whose capacity will have been built by the project from start, a technical person will be hired to conduct technical training. This will be done through partnering with organisations such as the European Community Humanitarian Organization (ECHO) or the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO), who have extensive experience in conservation agriculture, in training farmers and in providing capacity building workshops with regards to improving food security and nurition.
Establishment of ‘Garden based learning’: After training of individual farmers, the ‘Garden based learning’ programme will be established to bring individual farmers together with other farmers to share their experiences gained during the training. This will provide an opportunity for farmers to consolidate their knowledge gained from the training, and to share ideas and build a community of practice with other farmers in the region. DADO will use this follow-up prgramme as an opportunity to ensure that farmers are fully supported to put the learning into practice, so as to increase their food production and productivity.
Establishment and strengthening of peace building structures at School and Community levels: DADO has been working with community peace structures to enhance dialogue, peace mobilization and monitoring security sustainably. The introduction of conservation agriculture will feed into the already existing sustainablity groups of women, men and youth in the selected sub counties. This project will strengthen the traditional non-violent conflict resolution and peace building initiatives already being used in these areas by supporting the peace clubs in schools and peace committees at community level. In this way, future cross boarder initiatives will be enhanced to promote harmony and peace with the neighbours.
Training of women and youth groups on VSLA/VICOB methodology: In order to promote cohesion amongst the groups of smallholder farmers VSLA/VICOBA will be introduced, both as a means of enhancing individual saving and as a means of promoting dialogue and a community of practice. DADO will build on the success of the groups in Lorukul, Geremech and Lokori that were previously supported in these areas in this same aspect of VSLAs/VICOBA, and will train-up and support VSLAs/VICOBA groups in the three sub counties of Karenga, Kawalakol and Lolelia. This training will cover areas such as: group formation, group dynamics, record keeping and management, leadership and resources sharing. The develoment of such Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA)/VICOBA will be critical in wealth creation and asset building, as through these groups communities will be trained to manage and use their savings appropriately.
Start up support/grant to boost up VSLAs/VICOBA Group Enterprises: After undertaking the training of women and youth groups on VSLA/VICOBA methodology, DADO will support them with grants as well as VSLAs/VICOBA kits. The VSLA kits include a VSLA box, record counter book, pens, calculator, stampard, register pens and saving books. The grants are given to these groups to boost their savings, which they will in turn be able to borrow and loan out in order to benefit their households needs, for example to cover education and medical costs. These grants are normally not shared by members but are aimed to make profits for the VSLA group members, with the amount always remaining in the box after the closurre of the financial year of these groups.
Linking Farmers and VSLA/VICOBA groups to Government and other development partners’ programmes: DADO will develop linkages between all actors (farmers, extension agents, agro-dealers and other stakeholders) in order to enhance strategic focus in relation to the district and sub county development plan. To do this DADO will register the VSLA community groups with the relevant sub county and district local government and community development offices of Kaabong so that they can be supported and included in the sub county budgets. The reason for doing this is to link the groups to government and other development partners’ initiatives or programmes such as the National Agricultural Advisory Services NAADS, NUSAF II and Community Driven Development (CDD) initiatives, in oder to support the long-term sustainability of the groups.
Funds availability is critical for the project to succeed. Besides this prevailing good weather conditions and the community’s’ willingness to adopt this approach of Conservation Agriculture [CA] and the knowledge and skills into practice to benefit them is equally pivotal in ensuring the success of this project. Furthermore is the need to attain and support competant personnel in this project, as human resources are very critical in this endeavor.