Bwambale Bernard & Francis Musinguzi
Legumes, especially beans are a major food item of most staple diets in Uganda, providing about 15% of the protein source (Esther Ronner, Ken E. Giller, 2013). Legume production is supported by the bimodal rainfall pattern in most of the country’s agricultural regions. In these places, beans are planted around March-April and August-September seasons of the year. The Rwenzori Region, which hosts the two Food System Lab pilot projects in Uganda is one of the leading beans producing areas.
While the country is endowed with conducive climate and fertile soils to support bean growing, production has declined over the years and this is attributed primarily to poor agronomic practices and limited access to nitrogen fixing Rhizobium inoculants (Makerere University, 2021). In other studies, certain environmental factors have been found to be affecting rhizobia and symbiotic systems in the soil, thus negatively impacting on soil capabilities to support legume production (Hamdi YA, 1977). Excessive use of pesticides (fungicides, herbicides and nematocides) is one of the factors in question that may affect successful establishment of an effective symbiosis between rhizobia and their hosts.
These and other factors have greatly contributed to the decline of legume production. For instance, between 2018 and 2019, Uganda registered an immense decline in the production of beans from 727,652 metric tons to 438,000 metric tons, while groundnuts production dropped from 253,278 metric tons to 133,000 metric tons in 2019 (UBOS, 2021).
It’s important to note that reduction in legume production volumes poses a challenge to food security and increases the risk of protein deficiencies especially among children and other vulnerable groups. In order to minimize this risk, KRC-Uganda that operates the Fort Portal Food Systems Lab (FSL) facilitated a training of 60 legume farmers specifically those producing common beans on Rhizobium inoculation processes. These farmers were also trained on the importance of inoculation in regard to soil health and yield improvement as well as the environmental conservation benefits that accrue from usage of Rhizobium inoculants.
The training imparted an interest in the rhizobia inoculation technology to the farmers who acknowledged that Rhizobium could be the way to go to increase legume productivity. However, inoculants are not locally available and there is need to boost local access to inoculants through the mainstream agro-input supply chains. Currently, production and supply of rhizobia inoculants is confined to the research stations, a depiction of the accustomed shelving of research outputs.
Previously, the Fort Portal FSL collaborated with Makerere University, a chief producer of the Rhizobium inoculants to provide inoculants to the farmers in Fort Portal in order to test their efficacy. We now wait for farmers’ testimonies of how it worked.
Esther Ronner, Ken E. Giller, 2013. Background information on agronomy, farming systems and ongoing projects on grain legumes in Uganda Milestone reference number: S 1.2.3
Hamdi YA. Certain environmental factors affecting rhizobia and symbiotic systems. Zentralbl Bakteriol Parasitenkd Infektionskr Hyg. 1977;132(4):350-60. doi: 10.1016/s0044-4057(77)80026-9. PMID: 576107.
The Independent 2021. Uganda registers decline in staple food production – UBOS Report. News article published on November 17, 2021