By Caroline Mwongera
“Our soils are very good!” reiterated participants in five participatory workshops conducted in Nwoya district, Northern Uganda. These workshops were organized by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in April 2015. The aim was understand the criteria farmers use to prioritize agricultural practices; develop a prioritized list of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices farmers would like to implement and comprehend the gap between awareness of practices and the use of these practices.
Indicators for good soils were highlighted by farmers as: low weed infestation, fast crop growth, high crop yield, soft soils that are easy to plough, soils with black humus material, low pest and disease prevalence, good soil texture and high moisture retention. A few farmers described poor soils: sandy soils, low moisture retention, stony soils, high weed infestation, declining yields and poor seed germination. Farmers use these indicators to decide whether or not to adopt particular CSA technologies. Soil analysis results conducted in 2014 following Land Degradation Surveillance Framework (LDSF) in Nwoya indicated poor soil health in the area; yet farmers perceived their soils to be quite healthy.
Prioritizing climate-smart agriculture
When ranking the considerations farmers use to prioritize climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technologies, differences were noted taking into account gender and agro-ecological zones. For example, indicators ranked highest by women are yield, human health and knowledge on implementing the practice. Men considered land availability, yield and capital required to be the most important. Crop rotation ranked high among women living in the grassland, and rotational grazing among men. In the woodland zone, women prioritized the use of improved varieties and men identified water conservation technologies such as digging wells.
From the prioritization workshop, the CIAT team will establish demonstration plots of the top ranked CSA technologies across the different agro-ecologies. Indicators selected by farmers in analysis of the trade-offs in adopting the prioritized CSA technologies will be included. The interplay between scientific analysis and local perceptions will permit promotion of locally appropriate and acceptable CSA technologies, improving adoption and outscaling.
The workshops advanced on knowledge from the climate-smart agriculture rapid appraisal (CSA-RA). Other objectives of these participatory workshops included: identify existing demonstration plots of CSA technologies; establish farmers’ preference on management and geographical location of CSA demonstration plots and inform IFAD-funded projects and designs on CSA demonstrations in the district and Acholi region.
This research is supported by the CIAT-led, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) funded project, “Increasing food security and farming system resilience in East Africa through wide-scale adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) “Policy Action for Climate Change Adaptation” project.