Finding climate-smart, market responsive solutions for upland rice farmers in Uganda
15 November 2023, Uganda: The on-going #APNRF project on Enhancement of rice productivity through adaptation of climate-smart agricultural options and market responsive business strategies in Uganda is striving to improve rice productivity in western Uganda through the implementation of proper crop nutrition strategies grounded in good agronomic and climate-smart options.
The target agro-ecological domain is the upland rice production system (specifically the Albertine regions in the districts of Kikuube and Hoima) whose farmers have a strong need to upgrade their knowledge and skills directed towards improved productivity under their changing climatic conditions. Recently, national government policy has shifted in favour of supporting upland rice production in Uganda; however, the thousands of farmers affected have a strong need for targeted, climate-smart best agronomic practices to generate sustained improvement.
This African Plant Nutrition Research Fund project is being implemented by the Makerere University together with partners from National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Kikuube and Hoima District local Government, and Uganda National Meteorology Authority (UNMA) with support from the African Plant Nutrition Institute (APNI).
Applying lessons learned to the 2023 Short Season
Building from the momentum gathered from the initial 2022 season of on-farm experimentation and demonstration activities, the follow-up short season of 2023 found most farmers agreeing to continue cooperating with the team of researchers. Within the study, each participating farmer hosts two plots comparing results from farmer practice with an agreed upon set of good agronomic management with optimized nutrient management. As is consistent with APNI on-farm experimental (OFE) process, feedback shared by farmers at the end of each season to help in the adaptation process of tailoring an optimized protocol to local conditions. Sustained growth in farmer participation has been encouraged by the considerable improvement observed for rice yields and seed quality because of the adaptations in rice crop management. For example, high milling recovery, high grain weight, and less occurrence of broken grains have collectively contributed to higher returns and net income.
In 2023, the project’s influence on popularizing good agronomic practices began with improved land preparation that included double tillage to produce a consistent seed bed. A high priority was also placed on the early establishment of a seed bed prior to the onset of rains in February and March, as well as the increased potential for high yielding varieties such as NAMCHE5, the current variety chosen within the study.
“Most farmers expressed concern for the increased potential for moisture stress with rice planting during this short season. However, farmers were sensitized on how to respond to moisture stressed environment by adopting climate-smart management approaches such as the early planting, minimal soil disturbance, soil bund establishment, and good attention to weed control measures.” – Lead Project Researchers, Makerere University
Engagement with Stakeholders in the Rice Value Chain
A critical objective of this project is the development of market responsive business opportunities for farmers. A meeting amongst farmers, extension workers, researchers, agro-input dealers, millers, and traders created awareness across the member’s of the value chain about the successes gained by farmers in their use of improved rice crop management and nutrition to secure better yields of high-quality rice and cause impact in the value chain.
“The process enabled project team members and local district business to explore partnerships, identify critical private sector industrial players and devise a roadmap for the farmer-centric approach to rice productivity and sustainability.”
Demonstrations trained 75 farmers on the impact of optimized plant nutrition during the short season which is commonly more challenging to predict due to the highly variable rainfall.
“The project organized field training for demos owned by specific farmers that we defined as champion farmers. These demos provided a good learning and knowledge space for direct engagement with other participating farmers.”
The neighboring farming and communities were also invited to visit the demonstration sites to learn about implementing such practices on their farms. Through the exposure gained by the efforts of the project partners they estimate that the number of trained farmers can triple as efforts continue during the second half of 2023.
Moving forward, farmers are planning to integrate high-yielding rice varieties like NAMCHE 5 and implementing key rice management practices such as line planting, use of bunds, use of fertilizers, and timely control of the weeds. The growing legacy gained from continuing to raise the knowledge and skill level of upland rice farmers and establishing a farmer-led innovation system for knowledge generation continues to be one of the most promising outcomes of this approach to on-farm research.
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