The Africa Innovations Institute (AfrII) through the East African wetlands: Optimizing sustainable production for future food security project is extending Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) technologies aimed to boost upland rice production in the two districts of Wakiso and Luweero. The project is operating in Rice Sector Development Hubs in the 3 countries of Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. In Uganda, 10 farmers from each of the three selected villages in the two districts will partake in this research through a participatory process with aim to equip them with skills and knowledge in practicing climate smart agriculture to boost production of upland rice which will contribute to food security and increased well-being of rice producers and consumers in Africa.
The project is centered on promoting 4 GAP practices i.e. line sowing, fertilizer application (NPK), using ring hoes (a weeding tool that enables proper weeding within the rice garden without disturbing the rice in its growth), and planting the NAMCHE III upland rice variety. This variety is tolerant to climate change effects like drought and also takes a shorter maturation duration of about 3 and a half months after sowing.
“Farmers have previously been engaged in farming using rudimentary traditional methods and so the project is promoting these technologies so that productivity of the rice crop is enhanced to promote food security and welfare.” Remarks the Project Coordinator, also the AfrII Chairman, Professor George William Otim-Nape. Nape adds “The aim is to understand the challenges they face in rice farming and then teach them what to do to overcome these using technologies introduced to them. Today, productive farming is about engaging in climate smart agriculture and that is why we want the farmers to participate and own the technologies to improve rice productivity”
Under this research project, the selected farmers have set up a 200meter garden on which the NAMCHE III rice variety has been planted in rows/lines. This variety is directly planted/ sowed in the gardens without need for a nursery to carry out transplanting. The gardens have been set up under guidance and supervision of the AfrII field technical team of scientists working on the project and extending to the farmers’ trainings on proper crop management practices of the rice plant.
AfrII’s research scientists and field technicians are conducting field observation and monitoring visits to supervise and monitor the farmers during the different activities to ensure proper management of the technologies extended to them. The just concluded field visit involved a second round of fertilizer application to the plant (at 3weeks) in which 2 kilograms of NPK fertilizer were applied to each of the 30 selected farmer gardens.
“If the production is high and the farmers see and appreciate, we expect them to adopt the practices for the better so as to promote sustainable upland rice production on a large scale after the research is concluded” remarks AfrII field technical supervisor, Stephen Kwesiga.
During the different field visits, data is collected to record all the biotic stresses disturbing the plant during production i.e. chlorophyll score, and Pests and diseases. Some of the data collection tools used include a Leaf color chart of 1 to 4 different color grades. This is used to score chlorophyll content of the rice plant to monitor the plant performance. Based on the performance, one is able to know the plants health status based on the nutrient content is the soil. The card helps one identify whether there are some nutrients lacking in the soil and guides on whether there is need to add some to improve production of the rice plant.
The research project funded by the German Federal Ministry of economic cooperation and development (BMZ) targets rice farmers, value-chain actors (input dealers, millers, traders, fabricators, etc.), research and extension staff and government officials of Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda where it is being implemented.
According to the National Rice Development Strategy, Uganda is expected to produce up to 500,000 tons of rice in 2018 with introduction of new lowland rice varieties like NAMCHE III.