Enhanced resilience of drought prone communities through conservation agriculture: The case of Uganda
Yuko Kurauchi, Programme Specialist and Sarah Anyoti, Programme Specialist/Team Leader for IDDP Sub-Saharan Africa UNDP Drylands Development Centre
The Horn of Africa region has been facing increased climate variability and growing frequency and intensity of drought events. Dryland inhabitants have historically undertaken autonomous transformation processes to respond to extreme weather shocks and growing stress of land degradation. Nevertheless, the recent succession of devastating droughts has severely undermined the indigenous coping mechanisms of affected communities in the region, often putting them under chronic food insecurity.
In the six semi-arid cattle corridor districts of Uganda (i.e., Sembabule, Lyantonde, Nakaseke, Nakasongola, Kamuli and Kaliro), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, with the financial support from the Royal Norwegian Government, has been supporting to mainstream/integrate Sustainable Land Management (SLM) into District Development Plans, and to implement priority SLM community initiatives. The majority of drought prone populations, including small-scale farmers and communities in the drylands of Uganda are engaged in rain-fed subsistence agriculture. Vulnerability of these drylands communities remains high due to the fluctuations in seasonal rainfall. Application of innovative and cost-efficient land and water resource management measures in these areas are therefore an urgent requirement to improve agro-pastoral productivity while reversing the loss of soil, forest, watershed functions and biodiversity.
Conservation Agriculture: An Effective Risk Management Tool
In the targeted drylands Districts, conservation agriculture (CA) has been proven to be an effective SLM method, which is helping the communities break the vicious spiral of natural disasters, land degradation and poverty. Under the Programme, over 400 small farm holders have adopted various CA principles, such as crop rotation, minimum tillage and integrated nutrient management, etc. Each farmer provided ½ acre as a demonstration plot for CA supported maize and beans growing. A series of training and mentoring support was provided, including on how to prepare basins and dig trenches through which to prevent soil erosion and conserve water during dry spells, as well as on how to integrate trees, shrubs and animal husbandry in the farming system so as to trap moisture in the ground. The farmers were also trained in the utilization of soil testing kits for improved understanding ofthe farm inputs requirements and more effective soil fertility management.
The impact assessment study with 246 sample farmers reveals that a total investment of about USD 35,000 for the April-July 2012 planting season resulted in an increased yield of maize by 174 percent (45,860kg under traditional non-CA practices and 125,646kg under CA practices) and beans by 167 percent (10,137kg under traditional non-CA practices and 24,441kg under CA practices). Some groups witnessed harvests of over 500 percent difference in the same sites in the same period between the CA and non-CA approach. For example, the Buyanja group in Lyantonde District produced a total yield of 1,320kg of maize and 1,400kg of beans in CA farms compared to nil harvest in the non-CA farms. In Kamuli, 54,476 kg of maize and 13,325 kg of beans were harvested with CA techniques, while the yields with non-CA approach were limited to 10,994 kg of maize and 3,086kg of beans. For further details on the project and its achievements, please visit http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/ourwork/environmentandenergy/successstories/modern-conservation-practices-help-farmers-prosper-in-ugandas-dr.html.
Community Based Resilience Analysis (CoBRA)
It is important to note that increased agricultural productivity alone may not guarantee the sustainable development and poverty alleviation in drylands. In order to ensure that drought prone communities move onto a path of long-term resilience building, rather than being constantly pushed back to a poverty trap, an integrated multi-faceted approach at scale is clearly required. With this recognition, UNDP is currently developing a rigorous conceptual framework and standardized methodology, also known as Community Based Resilience Analysis (CoBRA). The aim is to use CoBRA to define the key factors and indicators affecting local resilience levels and to measure quantitatively the impact of various sector-based interventions, including those in the agriculture sector, on overall resilience enhancement. The CoBRA model (see the below image) will strengthen the existing monitoring frameworks, helping track progress along a resilience pathway in a given context through the agricultural interventions and other support, while guiding holistic planning processes. The model examines resilience characteristics and levels in five sustainable livelihoods framework categories (i.e., physical, human, financial, natural and social) in a participatory and community-led manner. This will allow the communities and their partners to identify areas that have been relatively well addressed, as well as gaps requiring further programme and project development.
CA project in Uganda demonstrate that the high potential of SLM in strengthening the dryland ecosystem services, which in turn improves agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods. Meanwhile, the preliminary results of the CoBRA field testing in the pilot dryland communities in Uganda and Kenya stress the importance to enhance the financial flexibility of the rural populations to bounce back from multiple shocks and stresses facing the regions. The participating communities echoed the need for an integrated support in agriculture and other sectors, such as diversification of the income sources and attainment of higher levels of education (i.e. tertiary level), which in combination will help them better cope with the impacts of drought and other socio-economic and environmental challenges in the long run.
The latest draft of the CoBRA conceptual framework and methodology is available for download at http://www.disasterriskreduction.net/drought-online/documents/detail/en/c/2693/. CoBRA has been under field trialing in selected pilot communities in Kenya and Uganda, and will be further tested in Ethiopia in the coming months. This work has been possible with the financial support from the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department of the European Commission (ECHO).
CoBRA Conceptual Model
Learn more about UNDP's Drylands Development Centre
UNDP is the United Nation’s global development network, an organization advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 177 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges. As they develop local capacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and our wide range of partners.
UNDP Drylands Development Centre is a unique global thematic centre that provides technical expertise, practical policy advice and programme support for poverty reduction and development in the drylands of the world. The Centre’s work bridges between global policy issues and on-the-ground activities, and helps governments to establish and institutionalize the link between grassroots development activities and pro-poor policy reform. The main areas of focus are mainstreaming of drylands issues into national development frameworks; land governance; marking markets work for the poor; decentralized governance of natural resources; and drought risk management.