James Oyet the chairperson LC3 of Lokole sub-county, thinks the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture should do more in ridding the country of invasive weeds, or sensitize farmers on how to eliminate the weeds, saying the effect is not only on individual farmers, but many government projects purposed to support farmers with revolving funds.
Maize garden destroyed by Striga weeds. Internet photo
John Alutu has had the most
demoralizing maize harvest this year because of Striga weeds. “From
four acres of maize, I got only three sacks,” Alutu reveals. Several
districts in Uganda, including Agago district, where Alutu resides, are
battling Striga, an invasive weed also known as witchweed.
The weed disables crops by leeching off their roots to get water and nutrients, leaving the
crops especially cereals like maize, millet, and sorghum, stunted. Maize is one of Uganda’s major
staple foods. According to croplife.org. maize alone provides 40 percent
calorie consumption of each Ugandan’s daily meal.
the number of maize bags per acre depends on several factors, on average, a
non-commercial maize farmer in Uganda gets between 10 to 20 bags (100kg bags)
per acre. This implies that Alutu’s four acres’ yield is proportionate to a
yield of a quarter of an acre.
the maize, Alutu planted three acres of sorghum. Like
many farmers who farm on many acres, Alutu relies on tractors to open his
gardens, and the services of others to sow, weed, and harvest his crops at a
fee. Opening an acre of acre of land using tractors costs between 100,000 to
120,000 Shillings. Other expenses include buying inputs such as seeds,
pesticides, and herbicides, which he summed at 2 million Shillings.
won’t be able to recover the 2 million shillings, because the three acres of
sorghum are now stunted and withered because of the weeds." Alutu forms the 99 percent of
the population that the Uganda Bureau of Statistics- UBOS says is engaged in
over the years, prolonged drought, and floods necessitated by climate change
have drastically affected yields as many farmers rely on rainfall, threatening
not only their food security but main income sources as well.
invasive weeds have been added to the list and they seem undeterred by either
weeds overwhelm crops regardless of adequate rainfall,” Alutu says.
of the weeds’ mass effect on crops, some farmers now plan to reduce the number
of acres they open. This he says will cut unnecessary expenses and lessen the
heartache that comes with the losses.
This means several of those who earned
from working in Alutu’s crop gardens, right from digging, sowing, weeding, and
harvesting will also be affected.
warn that the economy of the entire country will be greatly affected if nothing
is done to bolster smallholder farmers against the combined shocks of droughts,
floods, and invasive weeds.
government should devise ways of killing the weeds or we will die of
starvation, given the ever-rising food prices,” Alutu says, adding that the
district should also start sensitizing farmers on which crops can withstand the
Okwera, another farmer in Ogolo Village, Aywee Parish in Lokole Sub-County is
also feeling the effect of the invasive weeds.
planted three acres of maize and four acres of sorghum but all died. He describes
the weeds as so “aggressive that they continue destroying crops come rain or
appeals to the Department of Agriculture in the district to find ways of
eliminating the weeds, claiming that they not only stunt and leave crops
seedless but change their taste as well.
have realized that cassava planted in gardens infested with Striga weeds have a
bitter aftertaste,” Okwera says he used 1.5
million shillings to plant his crops and is worried about where to get money
for his children’s school fees, as farming is his only source of income.
According to the National
Agriculture Research Organisation, NARO, maize losses arising from Striga
invasion exceed 70 percent, if the weed problem is compounded with constraints
such as drought and diseases. Figures show that Uganda has 262,000 hectares of Striga
It is not clear how much
Uganda farmers lose to Striga. However, according to a 2019 peer-reviewed publication
by Kobe University, Japan, African farmers lose approximately 9 billion dollars
(34 billion shillings) worth of crops a year due to the weeds.
cushion the farmers against the effects of Striga on cereals, the International
Institute for Rural Reconstruction recently started training farmers in the
district on climate-smart agriculture, but the result is yet to be felt.
Kalisa, the programs manager at the IIRR, says the main climate risks and
challenges in Agago are mainly the impacts of drought on farming and invasive
weeds, such as Striga and congress weeds, which he confirms affects mainly
of the farmers have run away from growing cereals, most of the farmers are now
concentrating on soya beans and sunflower because of the impacts of Striga,”
has already introduced some plants that improve soil fertility, improve yields,
or overpower Striga weeds.
have introduced push and pull technologies which involve the use of green leaf
desmodium and Sugar Napier to fight Striga,” he says.
says the organization has also introduced cover crops like Canavalia, Mucuna, and
Jack Beans, and then the use of pigeon peas in maize to increase production. “We
are promoting pigeon peas specifically because it is a food security crop. At
the same time, it helps to improve the fertility of the garden. And also
Gliricidia Sepium because it is a fertilizer tree,” Kalisa says.
farming is the main economic activity carried out in Agago district with finger
millet, maize, sorghum, peas, cassava, beans, and vegetables as the most grown.
from the Water for Production Regional Center-North under the Ministry of Water
and Environment published in March 2023, indicates that 90 percent of the
population in the district is engaged in subsistence farming.
estimate that 700 acres of cereals have been destroyed by Striga in Lokole
sub-county alone this year. Other affected areas in the district include; Agago
and Kalongo Town Councils, Parabongo, Ajali, and Agengo sub-counties among
Oyet the chairperson LC3 of Lokole sub-county, thinks the Ministry of
Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture should do more in ridding the
country of invasive weeds, or sensitize farmers on how to eliminate the weeds,
saying the effect is not only on individual farmers, but many government
projects purposed to support farmers with revolving funds.
cites that government programs such as the Youth Livelihood Fund, Uganda Women
Entrepreneurship Program, and Parish Development Model will all fail if the
weeds are not eliminated as the majority of beneficiaries are farmers.
that since the weed, which started devastating crops three years ago is a huge
threat to food security, the ripple effect might also make leadership more
difficult, “because it is not easy to lead hungry people.”
Several farmers in the
district assume that the Striga weeds were introduced into the district through
relief food distributed to Internally Displaced Persons during the LRA war, and
have been multiplying gradually. Charles Ojwee, the Agago
District Agriculture Officer advises farmers to practice early planting and
crop rotation to mitigate the effect of the weeds, saying the Striga weed seeds
can survive up to 30 years in the soil.
“Farmers are saying the Striga
weeds invaded the gardens when people were in the camps but it might have been
there even before people were displaced in camps because Striga weeds can
remain vibrant in the soil for over thirty years.” Alutu has
thought of planting early next year, saying he has noticed that the weeds start
growing in June and July, and believes he might get something meaningful if he plants
But one more
thing worries him. The late onset