Determinants of crop and land management practices and effects on production risks under variable climatic conditions in Eastern Uganda.
Kagorora, Kansiime Monica
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This study aimed to establish the effects of various crop and land management practices in reducing production risks under variable rainfall regimes in Eastern Uganda. An approach that integrated both rainfall variability and agricultural production was used, through yield functions. The following specific objectives were addressed based on knowledge and methodological gaps identified in literature review: i) establishing the extent and pattern of variation of annual and seasonal rainfall over a 40-year period, ii) determining factors that influence farmers' decisions to adopt management practices, iii) evaluating the effect of farmer-preferred management practices on the mean and variance of crop production in variable rainfall regimes, and iv) assessing farmers' perceptions of the effectiveness of the various management practices in mitigating against rainfall variability-induced production risks. Data for this study were obtained from 315 households, 9 focus group discussions and 23 key informants drawn from Mbale, Pallisa and Sironko districts. Study results showed an increasing trend in annual and ASON rainfall, and decreasing trend for MAMJ rainfall, with ASON exhibiting higher variations than MAMJ. Farmers employed a number of crop and land management practices strategically in response to perceive seasonal variations in climatic conditions, majorly influenced by their perception of rainfall adequacy. Most of the farmer-preferred management practices showed significant positive mean impacts on yield but had different risk-reducing effects on yield. Changing sowing dates and crop varieties, soil bunds, compost manure, cover crops, crop rotation and intercropping showed significant (p~O.05) risk-reducing effects on yield. Their effects varied across agro-ecological zone, except soil bunds and compost manure whose use consistently exhibited both yield-increasing and risk-reducing effects across all the agro-ecologies. Study results have the following implications: First, the changing scenario in variability of rainfall will affect cropping patterns in the study districts thus requiring introduction of crops or varieties best suited to the patterns such as early maturing crops for MAMJ and more water tolerant crops for ASON. Second, the effectiveness of technologies in reducing production risks is location-specific thus the need to develop and disseminate location specific adaptation approaches, instead of blanket recommendations of similar adaptation measures across locations. Lastly, the need to focus not only on the technical aspects of technologies, but also the social dimensions such as perceptions of smallholder farmers of technology effectiveness, if adoption and retention of management practices is to be increased. Development and research organizations promoting adaptation options should involve farmers in technology evaluation so as to recommend the most feasible options given farmers' situations and local perceptions.