Friday, 26 April 2013

Twig borer puts coffee yields under threat

Coffee, in especially central and south western Uganda, is under threat of a pest known as the black coffee twig borer. In many areas, it is present in almost all the fields.
“In each district, we visit 10 farmers and estimate the farms infested. We conducted a survey in 26 districts. Most affected were Rakai, Butambala, Bukomansimbi, Lwengo and Kayunga, Mpigi, Wakiso and Mitooma then Kanungu and Rukungiri, Kibaale and Sembabule,” explains Dr Godfrey Kagezi , an entomologist.
First sign
He is part of team from Usaid-Livelihoods and Enterprises for Agricultural Development (LEAD), which was on a 15-district sensitisation programme.
“In these districts, prevalence is 100 per cent. When we look at the damage, the primary branches are infested, which are the ones that carry the berries. When the twig dries, the cherries are lost hence volumes of harvests are affected and incomes lost,” he adds.
The first sign of the presence of the borer is a characteristic pin-size hole on the twigs. Then there is yellowing, wilting and drying of leaves and twigs. Dr Kagezi says, “When you dissect the twig, you will find the adults and the various stages like larvae, eggs, and pupa.”
Mr William Lubo, chairman of Rakai District Coffee Stakeholders Platform, brings together 30,000 farmers, reveals the black coffee twig borer has affected these farmers for five years.
How to handle
“Many confuse it with coffee wilt. The other is a disease and this one is an insect. This is largely because of the way they manifest themselves. Wilt dries the plant but it starts from up but the borer starts with the twigs.”
Under the LEAD project, the farmers were taught how to handle the twig borer. “With wilt, we cut down the whole tree and burn it,” Lubo explains. “When the twig borer attacks the tree, we have been taught to break off the affected twig and burn it. Alternatively, we can spray the affected tree.”
Robert Ssentamu, Uganda Coffee Development Authority’s (UCDA) regional extension officer, points out that the pest was first heard of in Kamwozi, Buwunga sub-country. “A farmer reported that his farm had been attacked by this insect. We had heard of it in Mukono, Bushenyi and Bundibugyo,” he recollects.
Dr Kagezi adds, “It has many alternate hosts. Worldwide, it is said to attack more than 240 plant species. In Uganda, it is confirmed it on more than 40 plant species.”
Proper choice
These include Robusta and Arabica coffee, tea, cocoa, food crops like egg plants, trees like eucalyptus, Maesopsis eminii, locally known as musizi, shade trees especially albizia chinesis, fruit trees like avocado, jackfruit, mangoes, and shrubs like calliandria.
Management of the borer calls for daily inspection of the coffee fields. Any infested parts should be cut and burnt immediately. 
“There is need for a proper choice of shade trees. Avoid Albizia chinesis, musizi and musambya. We have found most of the damages on these. And they exhibit the same signs when the beetles infest them,” Kagezi advises.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Trap rainwater now for use in the dry seasons

The rain season has begun in most parts of Uganda. When it rains, it is normal for us to seek shelter from building or any other structure from where we watch runoff water in the compound making its way to the valley.
These are cubic metres upon cubic metres of water that can be trapped and stored in barrels, tanks, and reservoirs for use during periods of shortage. There is a looming shortage of water globally especially with the onset of climate change and farmers must invest in water-saving technologies. UN Water, which comprises several institutions and organisations including the Food and Agriculture Organisation, states that the need for water has been growing at more than twice the rate of population growth in the last century.
Water scarcity
In Uganda, some farmers in rural areas no longer store rainwater for just agriculture; they use it in their houses which have flush toilets and shower bathrooms. In a previous Farmers’ Diary article (March 27, 2013), it was pointed out that Uganda has a lot of natural water sources but suffers from what World Watch Institute describes as economic water scarcity. We have the water sources but we lack the financial means to use those sources. We cannot pump water from Lake Victoria or the River Nile to deliver it to water-stressed areas where most of our farmers entirely depend on rain.
Most see the rainwater running off roofs and all over their compounds but they lack the financial means, the infrastructure, the investment, and proper management to trap that water and store it for use during the dry season.
While it is impossible to completely rule out the need for money to have a water catchment or a fairly large water container, relatively low-cost technologies have been introduced to enable poor households harvest valuable amounts of rainwater. One good catchment area is the house roof. There should be enough money of course to fix gutters at the edge of the roof to lead rainwater into a tank.
There are not only longer lasting but more expensive plastic gutters but also cheaper metallic ones that may need replacement at a certain stage. Some people purchase large plastic water tanks—as large as 10,000-litre storage capacity or more. But these are expensive and a less endowed household may opt for the metallic types, which are not as durable and cost less.
The amount of water stored in this way often depends on the size and the number of water tanks a household has. Some people build underground or over-ground water tanks using concrete.
Store large quantities
Such tanks should be built by experienced builders as they may develop cracks and let out all the water. There is a recently introduced technology of building water tanks with unfired blocks made with soil-compacting machines.
It is cheaper for people to dig a pit and turn it into a water tank. The advantage with this kind of tank is that it can be as wide as the amount of water required. Such water reservoirs are lined with polyethylene, or butyl rubber, or even tarpaulin to prevent water from soaking into the ground. This type seems the easiest way to store large amounts of water for livestock farmers and vegetable growers who want to practice simple irrigation.
It is possible, for instance, for earth reservoirs to store up to 50,000 litres of rainwater or even more. The compound of a homestead is another good catchment area for rainwater. The runoff water can be directed by a carefully dug gully into an earth reservoir. Some wire mesh or sticks stuck closely together across the gully will help to prevent rubbish from going into the reservoir.
To keep the water clean and to minimise contamination, the top of the reservoir may be covered with iron sheets or logs. If iron sheets are used, the cover edge may be lined with gutters to trap more rain water into the reservoir.
The water stored in such ways may be used for irrigation of vegetables, maize, beans or any other such crops during the dry season. It may also be used for livestock. It is not enough, however, for farmers to acquire rainwater harvesting skills. It is recommended they use that water more efficiently by taking a number of steps including growing a diverse array of crops suited to local conditions and adopting irrigation systems which deliver water directly to plant roots.
An earth reservoir  with a capacity of 30,000 litres.

Drainage in and around the house

Whenever it rains, do you have water slowly leaking through your walls or flooding the compound and even entering the house at times? These are common problems faced by people especially those living in a wetland or on a slope. This is caused by having a poorly planned drainage system for the house.
The water has nowhere to flow to since your house is constructed in its final destination or along the way. Or the construction engineer did not put a polythene paper before the slab was cast. A slab is a common structural element of modern buildings. Horizontal slabs of reinforced concrete are typically between 100 and 500 millimeters thick. But such only apply to floors or ceilings. Thinner slabs are used for exterior paving. So if they are too thin then they cannot withstand the water flowing over them hence leading to a flooded room.
In case you do not know where the water is coming from but whenever it rains your house is damp or there is always a dampish feel to your wall that may be cause the damp-proof course is low. Richard Kigongo, a landscape designer explains how this occurs. “A damp-proof course is a horizontal barrier in a wall designed to resist moisture rising through the structure by capillary action which is also known as rising damp. So if you look at the inside of the walls and see they look damp then the water is slipping through the foundation and keeps rising till it reaches the surface of the wall.” This contact between the water and the walls may lead to cracks, breaking cement-paint bonds and creates dark spots on the walls.
“It is advised before constructing your house, you get a technical person to survey your property and take levels. They should ensure all the slab foundations are taken care of plus the damp-proof course too so that you do not suffer in the future with such problems,” he added. However if you are already living in a house/renting and you are experiencing this, there are a few things you can do to prevent them from continuing:
•Make water ways where the water can pass when it rains. Give it direction away from the house by digging these water ways around the house or besides the compound or a specified portion of land.
•You can also construct a “French drain.” A French drain is a small trench with a perforated pipe surrounded by sand or gravel that directs the water flow away from the house following the grade. Not only will it get the water away from the house, it will do it without any possibility of water runoff damage or erosion.
•Trenches would also be helpful in directing the water to a final destination. Though these may require a lot of labor and take more time to construct.
•Where the Damp-proof course is inadequate, you can drill walls through the walls at regular intervals and inject a penetrating liquid preferably silicon that will go into the holes. The chemical will be absorbed and form a water proof barrier hence stopping the dampness of the walls and floor.

Punish officials who abuse government vehicles - legislators

Lawmakers have directed the Ministry of Public Service to stop the abuse of government vehicles by civil servants.

Sometimes i have seen these vehicle work at night. Some even never park at the district. Should we assume that the district officials work at night. Most weekends, these vehicles are seen in town when the district offices is closed. Should we say that these officials do work extra hours off normal time?

Reacting to an ongoing public awareness campaign by this newspaper on the vice, the legislators yesterday expressed concern that public officials use the vehicles for personal gain. “The committee was concerned about the increasing reports by the Daily Monitor on the misuse of government vehicles by public servants,” said Mr Raphael Magyezi, the deputy chairperson of the Committee on Public Service and Local Government, in an interview with the Daily Monitor at Parliament yesterday.

He added: “Whereas the ministry officials tried to defend them, we reminded them of the policy in the Standing Orders on the use of public assets including vehicles. We have ordered the Ministry of Public Service to put up a task force to monitor the misuse of government vehicles outside office hours and excesses in terms of using vehicles for wrong purposes.”

On March 18, the Daily Monitor started a campaign highlighting the abuse of government vehicles. The legislators under whose docket the Ministry of Public Service falls, hailed the Daily Monitor for the initiative.

The Mukono Municipality Member of Parliament, Ms Betty Nambooze, said the committee will ask that the ministry considers suspending officials who misuse public vehicles on top of making them personally liable for repairs.
The parliamentary Local Government and Public Service Committee had, during a recent retreat with officials in Jinja, ordered the ministry to institute an urgent committee to monitor and punish civil servants who misuse government vehicles.

Available data indicates that government spends Shs100 billion annually on vehicle repair.
Some officials are reported to have pleaded that poor facilitation forces them to use the vehicles for private purposes.

However, the ministry agreed to remind all accounting officers to monitor all the vehicles in their departments.
An example of the local government vehicle being used for personal duties

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Access to information for better service delivery-Bundibugyo

Bundibugyo District Local government has embraced information sharing and accessibility through ICT tools. This was witnessed by the District Authority signing an M.O.U with Rwenzori Information Centers Network (RIC-NET) for the provision of an E-society resource center.
Later, on a bright Thursday morning the RIC-NET ICT team left for Bundibugyo District to set up the center at the headquarters. Delivered were the heavy duty copier/printer and scanner, Desk top computers with all accessories and furniture. The equipment was received by the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (ACAO) Mr. Kasungu who thanked the team for having delivered and fulfilled the promise to the district.
During the set up, the District Vice Chairperson also thanked the staff and the entire RIC-NET secretariat for the work well done to enable information accessibility for social accountability.
After the two days of work Bundibugyo now has a functioning E-society resource center with an active local area network (LAN) and wireless hot spot within the district offices’ premises.
The center is going to offer a number of services to the district staff, civil society and the entire community of Bundibugyo district. Services will include;
Ø  Trainings in computer literacy and web 2.0 tools
Ø  Timely information availability through the use of online platforms like the district website, d-group, e-library among others
Ø  Internet accessibility to mention but a few
The ICT team has embarked on the online platforms after the set up of the physical center. The website will also be online soon however you can now access bundibugyo news at
During the set up the center received and recorded 15 visitors (according to the visitors’ book). The center will start full operation on Monday 10th September 2012.