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Farmers in Acholi Abandon Gardens Over Rainfall Uncertainty

Johnson Obalim, a farmer in Oroko village, Palaro Sub-county, one of the areas that registered poor harvest due to prolonged dry spell says he isn’t interested in farming this season because of the losses he suffered previously.
Rainfall in Gulu City. Photo Julius Ocungi
A section of farmers in the Acholi Sub-region has opted not to tilt their gardens this second farming season over the uncertainty of the rainfall.

The long dry spell experienced in the first farming season left many farming activities within the region greatly affected with many farmers registering very poor harvests. Although rainfall returned this second season, with many farmers hopeful to compensate for their earlier losses, some farmers are hesitant to return to their gardens fearing a repeat of the harsh weather.

Johnson Obalim, a farmer in Oroko village, Palaro Sub-county, one of the areas that registered poor harvest due to prolonged dry spell says he is not interested in farming this season because of the losses he suffered previously.

Obalim says he lost two acres of beans in the first farming season after injecting shillings 350,000 in plowing, labor and planting materials, and seeds.

“What I predict is that the rainfall won’t last, as a farmer I got assurance from weather experts that it would rain in the first farming season but the prediction turned out to be the contrary. I am waiting for next year,” Obalim told Uganda Radio Network on Thursday.

Obalim notes that he has instead invested in livestock and poultry which are not easily affected by the weather changes.

James Lalobo, another farmer in Agung Village in Anaka Sub-county, Nwoya District says he is yet undecided on growing crops this season. Lalobo says he lost crops in the first farming season due to the dry spell. He notes that the challenge has been compounded by the invasion of stray elephants from Murchison Falls National Park that have been destroying their crops over the years.

“Up to now, I have opened my farmland, I am really not sure whether I will grow crops given my experience early this year. It’s not profitable to grow crops and lose it all because of lack of rain or elephants,” says Lalobo.

Lalobo anticipates next year will be a good period for him to grow crops confidently.

But Gulu District Production officer Jackson Lakor says the weather forecast points to a reliable rainfall until November which is good for farming.

He says farmers shouldn’t be discouraged but instead utilize this season to compensate for their losses in the first farming season.

Some of the farmers however faulted the weather forecast reports issued by Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) which were unreliable.

George Ocan, a farmer in Rwot Obilo Village in Owor Sub-county, Gulu District says that he received the three-month weather forecast from UNMA indicating good rainfall in the months of May, June, and July, but the prediction was inaccurate. He says the month of June and July was the driest in the region yet he had planted crops following the forecast.

William George Omony, the Manager of Forecasting services at Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) however says most farmers don’t follow their monthly forecast updates leaving them unable to know changes in forecasts.

He says whereas UNMA issues a three-month weather forecast, the same authority also comes out with monthly updates whenever it detects changes in the rainfall pattern.

According to Omony, although the months of June and July, with some early days of August being characterized by no rainfall, rainfall is expected to be reliable up to the end of August this year.

He says UNMA is working on the weather forecast for September, October, and November this year but advised farmers to take advantage of the current rain to plant crops.

“It’s true the month of June and July was one of the worst months in Northern Uganda characterized by very minimal and largely no rainfall. We are encouraging farmers however to plant their crops at the moment because we expect enough rainfall till the end of this month,” says Omony.

According to the Weather forecast issued by UNMA in May, persistent rains are expected to develop and continue until the end of August with a high likelihood of near normal (average) rainfall with a high tendency of above normal rainfall over the region.

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