Introduction

Much of Uganda’s agriculture is rainfall dependent. However, due to climate change and variability, crop growing seasons have shown more erraticism in onset and length of growing period, often resulting in reduced yields or total crop failure. In response to this, Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) periodically provides seasonal climate forecast. The forecast has been found to be limited in interpretation, understanding and use by stakeholders and consequently with support from GIZ project “THE DEVELOPMENT AND DISEMINATION OF OPTIMUM CROPPING CALENDAR FOR BEANS, MILLET AND MAIZE DERIVED FOR RAIN-FED AGRICULTURE IN FOUR RAINFALL ZONES OF UGANDA” and USAID PROJECT “ENHANCING RESILIENCE OF AGRICULTURAL LIVELIHOODS”, the national Agricultural research organization (NARO) has developed an online cropping calendar tool that would contribute towards stakeholder’s interpretation and understanding of a forecasted season.

The cropping calendar tool is derived from analyzing variability in rainfall onset, cessation and length of the potential crop growing season based on historical time-series data (1961 to 2016) a contribution from UNMA. Seasonal onset and cessation dates and length of cropping season are generated Using INSTAT software. The standard deviation of the generated characteristics then defines the windows of onset and cessation respectively. The difference between the two dates is the potential crop growing period. The analogue year of the forecasted season can be read directly from the tool thus guiding the user on the probable behavior of the forecasted season based on the analogue year.  After the stakeholder receives the forecast from ICPAC and UNMA, then they can use the tool to discern seasonal rainfall performance from the tool.

 The cropping calendar tool therefore helps in interpretation of the forecast by profiling the probable seasonal characteristics of the analogue year and this   helps in climate smart agricultural decision-making. Only three (maize, beans and millet) crops have been used in validating the tool through multi-seasonal rigorous field trials set up in only four rainfall zones of Uganda. It is anticipated that in future more crops and more rainfall zones will be added to tool. 

The tool also provides advisories on crop agronomic management including when to prepare fields, start planting, weeding, apply manure/mulch, harvesting, and post-harvest activities, developed in conjunction with MAAIF.  These advisories are based on agro-meteorological data and information throughout a forecasted season. The tool can be updated regularly on a seasonal scale.

In its current format, the tool is meant to benefit agricultural extension workers, researchers, and large-scale / commercial farmers that can interpret the outputs from the tool for timely farming decisions. It will also help MAAIF to develop advisories for agricultural planning. However, the tool needs continuous piloting and refinement to make it in sync with smallholder farmers’ farming activities.

Key words:  

Optimum cropping calendar for Millet, Maize and beans, Meteorology, climate change, responsive tool, climate smart agriculture and how the meteorology part is linked to crop productivity, yield increase 

 

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