Soil Scientists at the Africa Innovations Institute (AfrII) are conducting countrywide data collection on soils and ecosystems under the Vital Signs Project (VS). Vital Signs generates near-real time data for better decisions in support of sustainable agriculture, environment conservation and climate change resilience. Vital Signs is a global project led by Conservation International (CI). The team recently hosted the CI President, Dr. Jennifer Morris on the Project work in Nakasongola district. She was accompanied by Dr. Alex, the Manager, Data Science-CI, and Dr. Alice Ruhweza, the Executive Director-Vital Signs Monitoring System. The team met with senior officials of the Nakasongola district Local Government during the data collection exercise for farmers and managers in the district.
The lead scientist of this work at AfrII, Dr. Julius Okwadi, the Vital Signs Uganda Country Director said the data collected is intended to guide better decision making by farmers and policy makers to design methods to improve the agricultural production system in Uganda.
“We have completed collection of biophysical data on 464 E-Plots from 6 landscapes, countrywide and also collected socio economic data to understand the health, nutrition status and income of the 180 households sampled” Okwadi said.
Okwadi added that Nakasongola has greatly faced climate change challenges, which is why it is one of the districts the project is focusing on to endeavor to address these.
Meanwhile, the AfrII Chairman, Professor George William Otim- Nape, said the work is going to be of great value to improve agriculture in Nakasongola but also Uganda at large. “Once we get the information required, we will use it to inform decision makers on best bet climate change adaptation practices to conserve nature and improve human wellbeing,” Otim added.
Dr. Jenifer Morris, the President of Conservation International says they want to understand the challenges of climate change and how other factors related to soil and health are impacting community livelihood around the country. “We are trying to get what data services are needed, identify the data gaps, and what kind of tools we can bring to help farmers in better decision making,” Moris said.
Dr. Gerald Kittaka, the production Officer Nakasongola District noted that drought has become a recurring hazard in Nakasongola coupled with pests and diseases which affect crops and animals leading to economic and material loss to the district.
Nakasongola is a district located in the cattle corridor of Uganda. It is highly vulnerable to Climate change hazards especially drought and rising temperatures. The district is affected by severe droughts that occur every 2 to 3 years compared to 5 to 10 years (20-40 years ago). In 2016, last year, 60-70% crop failure was registered (maize, groundnuts, cassava, citrus and coffee) causing heavy production losses resulting in famine and poverty.
In Feb 2017, this year, 115,433 people (59.8%) were food insecure and 28,384 (11.7%) in a crisis state and required emergency food aid.