With a long history of drought and food insecurity, Karamoja region in North Eastern Uganda is not known for growing its own food. Less known is the fact that the region has a wet agricultural zone running vertically on its western side where crop growing has been flourishing.
It is with this knowledge that the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is promoting rice growing in the region.
Working with the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), UNDP and JICA funded a training for twenty-seven (27) officials from the Karamoja region to acquire new skills in rice production. This training is part of JICA’s Promotion of Rice Development (PRiDe) project which builds the capacity of selected institutions including NaCRRI for rice production.
The training which took place between 26th and 28th July 2016 was attended by district officers, community development officers, model farmers, civil society organisations and technical officers from Nabuin Zonal Agriculture Research and Development Institute (ZARDI).
Participants received training in various topics such as – how to select and grow different varieties of rice, site selection, seed multiplication, pest and diseases control, water management and post-harvest handling among others.
At the end of the three day training, participants were eager to start rice production back home.
“Some of the sub-counties in Kaabong district have swamps and rivers that flow throughout the year. Our soil is fertile and rice production is possible in Karamoja. We are going to start land preparation from next week in time for the next rainy season. I will lead by doing,” Mr. Alexander Kiberu, Kaabong District Agriculture Officer said.
Grace Loumo, a participant who is also the executive director of Action for Women and Awakening in Rural Environment (AWARE), a Non-Governmental Organisation based in Karamoja told UNDP that she intends use the knowledge she gained to empower women in the region by teaching them how to grow rice.
“Rice is a luxury in Karamoja. Many people eat rice but mostly for special occasions such as Easter and Christmas because it is expensive. I think rice production will improve income and nutrition of Karamojong people,” Loumo said.
Rufina Komol, who at 28 was one of the youngest female participants in the training said, “I want to become a pioneer of rice production in Karamoja.”
One of the key challenges that might hamper rice production is the lack of enough water in the region as well as access to inputs such as seeds.
UNDP in partnership with JICA will support the implementation of local government work plans for rice production – which were developed during the training. Through this support, participants were given rice seeds which are expected to be ready for harvest within four to five months of planting.
This initiative is part of the Stabilization and Livelihood Project which is implemented by UNDP and funded by the Government of Japan.
Under this project, UNDP in partnership with JICA will provide alternative livelihood opportunities particularly for women and youth in the communities from the Karamoja region as well the West Nile districts that support South Sudanese refugees. All this aimed at providing these communities with constant sources of income to support their families.