OPINION: Agricultural Innovations Key in Averting Vulnerability to Drought

The Water governance institute is introducing aquaponics in Uganda

By Diana Taremwa

Ugandans especially in rural areas face a hunger crisis due to the prolonged dry spell which the country has been experiencing for the last six months.

For a country, no rx with a population of about some 34 million people who mainly depend on rain fed agriculture and majority are small holder farmers, the effects have been devastating.

The drought has left millions of farmers including cultivators and herdsmen in despair as their crops have dried up and animals starved to death  due to lack of pasture and water, as most water sources have dwindled or dried up.

According to the ministry of state for disaster preparedness Mr.Musa Ecweru the drought has since left nearly 9 million Ugandans in urgent need of food aid across the country.

The severity of this drought stems from two perils of climate change and environmental degradation which have disrupted weather patterns around the country.

Ugandans continue to encroach and degrade wetlands, forests, lakes and rivers which influence 40% of the rainfall in Uganda.

According to the Meteorological Authority January 2017 report, water levels in Lake victoria basin have been constantly diminishing due to the dry spell coupled with cultivation and degradation of areas around the lakeshores.

This has led to destruction of fish breeding grounds and a tremendous fall in fish stocks at a time when fish is the preferred source of proteins over red meat.

Water governance institute is working to alleviate the effects of droughts in the country including securing household food by supporting rural households through an innovative farming system called aquaponics farming.

Aquaponics farming involves integrating fish rearing and horticultural crop farming in a closed-loop water recycling system.

Fish is reared in a tank and the crops are grown in a grow-bed which may be located above or on the sides of the fish tank and interconnected with pipes to assist in recycling water from the fish-tank to the grow-bed and back again into the fish-tank.

This is transformative in that it introduces integrated fish and horticultural crop farming to provide the much needed nutritional supplement and alternative incomes (if done commercially) in majority of the rural, urban or peri-urban household settings.

The project aims at promoting food security, water efficiency and livelihoods improvement in the country. It is informed by the need to safeguard fish stocks considering that current natural fish stocks and sources (i.e. lakes, rivers & wetlands) are dwindling, high incidences of malnutrition among households related to protein and attributed to poor quality diets, the need to use water efficiently across the various food value-chains, increasing poverty levels, the high premium market prices for fish and horticultural crop products and the impressive economic viability of aquaponics farming.

In the face of climate change and increasingly frequent, severe droughts in the country, we must start to think about innovative ways to reduce local community vulnerability especially in rural Uganda.

The writer Works with Water Governance Institute


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