As the world today jointly commemorates the World Food Day under the theme “Climate is changing. Food and Agriculture must too” agricultural experts at the Africa Innovations Institute (AfrII) shared a message that to address hunger and food insecurity issues, there is need to intensify production of drought tolerant crops including cassava, sweet potato, sorghum and millet. With climate challenges affecting crop life today thus resulting into shortage of food, these drought tolerant crops are regarded as the ‘foods of the future’.
Today, the world is witnessing an unprecedented wave of food crises/ emergencies linked to climate change and natural disasters. This has largely affected the food security issue and this can have severe consequences for long –term food sustainability, says Africa Innovations Institute (AfrII).
“one of the crops likely to save us is cassava because cassava grows over a period of about 5 months. The cassava crop will experience all the extreme weather events that are accompanying climate change like drought. If there is prolonged drought/ dry season you will find the cassava in the ground, if there is too much rain, you find the cassava in the ground. If there are hailstorms, you will find the cassava in the ground. Studies have found that cassava is going to be the most resilient crop that we as a country should be looking at for food security” CAVA II Uganda Country Manager, Mr. Francis Alacho said addressing Uganda press on Friday, 14 October 2016.
Climate change is one of the biggest threats to food security. The increasing frequency in Weather related disasters, higher temperatures (dry spells) are affecting crop life in many agricultural based areas, like Northern Uganda which has suffered long sequences of dry spell in the two last seasons of production affecting many crops.
A study on how the weather/ climate has been behaving over the past 30 years (1980-2010) revealed a shift in the weather patterns, that is, the first season that normally starts around March –June is becoming drier and the rains are reducing. Over the 30 years the rains reduced from about an average of 50mm per year. On the other hand, the temperatures over the last 30 years during the first rains increased by an average of 2 degrees Celsius (This is quite significant when it comes to crop production because some of the crops and even animals are sensitive to such weather increases).
“When you look keenly at this data, you notice that the first season is becoming un favorable for crop production and yet traditionally in Uganda, these are the long rains that used to give us very good harvests” Mr. Alacho said noting that the second rains that come between August to around November are increasing by an average of about 60mm over the generation of 30 years but the increase in temperature is also the same increase of about 2 degrees Celsius.
“From this study we did remodeling to see the predictions over the next 30-50 years of which we found out that this pattern is going to continue. We are going to see the first rains becoming less and less whereas its becoming hotter. Whereas its going to continue that the second rains are going to become wet and wetter while it is still hotter” This elaborately shows that climate is changing and this is affecting production of food for people to survive on, and so crops like cassava must come into play to address the food situation.
In his address, Professor Otim-Nape, Chairman AfrII says “Enhancing food security for all is a fundamentally important topic. Our work at AfrII covers the whole of Uganda and we are able to understand the food situation in Uganda for which we intend to come up with solutions to curb this food crisis situation affecting us. Our work has established that we are still not food secure and many families don’t have enough food to eat. These families produce food, but around March, April, May the food stocks dwindle and people become desperate. To address this, therefore, we need farmers in Uganda to adopt intensive farming of these drought tolerant crops, especially Cassava”
“In order for us to achieve food security in a rising population, we have got to move aggressively to innovations, innovations in terms of enhancing soil fertility to produce more to feed many. The soil nutrient levels in many of the areas countrywide has really gone down, therefore if we are to address the food insecurity issue, we need to enhance the fertility of the soil so that yields can begin to go up” adds Professor Otim-Nape.
Mr. Stephen Kwesiga, a BioPysical scientist under the Vital Signs project at AfrII also had this to say to the media “Population is growing every now and then and to have a food secure nation, we shall need to increase food production by around 70 to 100% if we are to meet the current need for food to eliminate hunger. But to do this, there are a number of things we should put right”
“There is a lot of food insecurity and the production is very low, not because people aren’t hardworking but because of the challenges they are going through. What Vital Signs is addressing currently is to provide near real time data to decision and policy makers to guide agricultural development initiatives in the country. We collect soil samples from all round the country and analyze these, and through our analyses, we have come to discover that most of our soils in Uganda are depleted. We believe all these soil related challenges need to be addressed if we are to become a food secure country” he adds.
Also, Dr. Joweria Nambooze, a nutritionist at the institute says “we are using nutrition sensitive approaches. When we improve production, we want to make sure that ultimately, this production will enhance nutrition at the end of the day. We promote production of climate resilient crops like sorghum and millet that are also quite nutritious as these not only help in the fight against climate change but also promote food security”
AfrII’s theme for the World Food Day is “Advancing food security in achieving SDG 2: End Hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”
On a whole, Uganda has commemorated the day with celebrations held in Ngeta, Lira district.