Ugandan co-operatives help address climate change

Ugandan co-operatives are helping smallholder farmers cope with the challenges brought by climate change. Weather fluctuations are already affecting farmers’ incomes and harvests, and more extremes are expected in the future.

Samuel Sentumbwe is climate smart agriculture project coordinator at the Uganda Cooperative Alliance. In an article for the International Co-operative Agriculture Organisation, he explains how climate-friendly agriculture practices have helped improve the livelihoods of 50% of farmers members of the Malongo and Kasambya Area Cooperative Enterprice (ACE).

One of the farmers who have benefited from this programme is Mujuni Herbert (62). “During my childhood days we used to fetch firewood for cooking food,” he says. “The wood was always available until the early 1990s when most of the forests had been cleared due to the increased usage by the people in the villages. Today, we have to buy firewood because almost all the natural forests which were sources of free fire wood are gone.”

With help from the Uganda Cooperative Alliance and the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, farmers learned how to construct and use energy saving stoves, making charcoal briquettes out of crop waste.

“I set up two sets of energy-saving stoves and my expenditure on firewood has reduced by almost 50%,” said Mr Herbert. Several farmer members of the co-operative are now also using “early maturing trees” for firewood. These trees mature in two to three years, as opposed to the 10 years required by other species.

“This pilot project funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation has provided overwhelming evidence of the solutions that are presented by Climate Smart Agricultural interventions,” explained Mr Sentumbwe. “These practices should, however, be scaled out for larger and better impact on the communities as part of the wider mitigation strategies to climate change.”

Around 3,000 farmer members of co-operatives have been practicing climate-friendly agriculture over the last 12 months. These practices included minimum tillage, using mulching and covering crops to reduce water evaporation, as well as harvesting and storing water for use during dry periods, using energy-efficient stoves and promoting agro-forestry. While these measures cannot tackle all climate-related challenges farmers face, they can help reduce their vulnerability.

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