KOTIDO, Uganda, (Xinhua) --
When a prolonged dry spell hit semi-arid Karamoja
region in northeastern Uganda last year, the locals faced a food
The situation was
exacerbated by an attack of the Fall Army Worms which ravaged
gardens, leaving nothing for the farmers.
Roger Lochole, in
Modokony village of Kotido district, is one of the farmers that
faced the wrath of the food crisis that saw their granaries
“My hands were tied
that year, we had nothing to eat,” the father of two told Xinhua
in a recent interview.
“I also had to raise
my children’s school fees but I had nothing in the garden.” he
To address the
recurrence of such food crises, the government is now training
locals to practice modern farming methods so that they can adapt
to climate change.
Through the UN’s
Food and Agriculture Organization and China South-South
Cooperation program, the government introduced the foxtail
millet in Karamoja. Through the program that will be renewed,
according to Uganda’s ministry of agriculture, Chinese experts
trained over 3,000 farmers and 80 technical staff.
A pilot project in
2016 was rolled out by the Chinese agriculturalists, who were
jointly working with district local governments in Karamoja
Lochole was among
the 50 farmers chosen as pioneer beneficiaries of growing
The idea was that,
after harvesting their millet, the farmers would give back
thirty percent of the harvest to newly recruited farmers.
Foxtail millet did
wonders, flickering a ray of hope to many frustrated farmers,
who referred it as ‘miracle seeds’ due to its drought-tolerant
and fast-maturing nature.
The yellowish millet
variety, named after its color resemblance like the tail of a
fox, takes two months to grow, compared to the traditional
brownish finger millet that takes three months, according to
The first harvest
was huge for Lochole who reaped six bags of foxtail millet from
five kilograms of the seeds he had planted in his garden.
“I could not believe
what I saw in my garden,” Lochole reminisces with fondness.
“My millet had
matured back. I was able to replenish my food stock and my
situation improved for some time.”
At the onset of the
rainy season this year in March, this time around, farmers who
had planned to grow foxtail millet missed out on their first
rains because they were waiting for their cultural elders to
flag-off the planting season.
So, the likes of
Lochole were left in dilemma yet food shortage was still a
“We could not do
anything but wait for our elders to direct us,” Lochole
“We sat silently and
watched as the rains passed away but we could not lift our
Among the Karamojong
communities, cultural elders are regarded as traditional
‘weather forecasters’, with powers to dictate when farmers
should start planting.
Failure to obey
their instructions would lead one to punishment, which is then
followed by a ritual cleansing known as ‘Amedo’, where a bull is
slaughtered to prevent a bad omen.
By the time the
cultural elders gave a green light to farmers to plant their
crops two months later in June, unfortunately there was a
‘pseudo rainy season’.
“It was too late for
us to grow because the rain took long to fall,” said Lochole.
“When it did later,
it flooded our gardens for days. Our seeds were washed away and
crops failed to sprout.” he said.
Farmers who had
disobeyed their elders were punished but their attitudes came
with benefits: they ended up harvesting food for their families
and farmers like Lochole had to bite their lips and suffer
ADAPTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE
one short rainy season that is highly erratic, unreliable and
inadequate. This has made the region to be continuously stalked
by hunger, sometimes famine, thus causing food insecurity.
governments in Karamoja are planning to train local farmers on
modern farming methods so that they can adapt to climate change.
“The program will
begin early next year when farmers will be trained with
fact-based modern farming through our extension workers,”
Bernard Obin, Kotido District Agricultural Officer told Xinhua
in a recent interview.
Obin said the
trained farmers will act as ‘change agents’ in the communities
that still rely on superstition when farming amid the changing
As such plans are
still in the offing, Mark Tony Ochen, an agricultural officer at
Panyagrara Sub County, in Kotido district, is training farmers
on modern farming methods.
“I began by training
six model farmers who are also teaching 30 people,” said Ochen,
who has been distributing foxtail millet after receiving
training about the variety from Namulonge Agriculture and Animal
Production Research Institute, earlier this year.
Lochole is one of
the recent graduates. He has opened his field where he is
growing crops like foxtail millet, maize, and peas.
“I don’t want to
have a repeat of last year. I have to apply the knowledge (in my
garden). I have learnt to provide for my family,” he added.
CULTURAL LEADERS TAKE CLASSES
Gabriel Logwe, a
cultural elder in Panyagrara sub-county also completed his
training from Ochen’s classes and he is now training other
farmers in modern farming.
His classes are
conducted thrice a week, mostly in the evening when farmers are
free from work. Some of the people in his class include cultural
“I use practical
examples so that everyone can understand certain concepts that
are hard to discern,” Logwe said.
Logwe’s goal is to
change mindsets of people who are still using superstition to
deal with climate issues and also ensure that they are
sustainable in terms of in food production especially during the
times of crisis.