Uganda has joined the world to commemorate the World Soil Day under the theme: ‘‘keep soil alive, protect soil biodiversity’’ in an event which was held scientifically at Busitema University, Busia District in an online conference, where imminent soil scientists discussed issues of soils, in particular soil pollution and sustainable use of soils.
Despite its fundamental importance to human life, the soil resource is threatened by widespread degradation through misuse.
The theme comes at a time when soil pollution in Uganda is getting severe in many parts of the country. The minister points out the problem as the use of Plastics in Uganda ranging between 300 – 1000 gauge polypots and polysheet, nylon fiber nets, plastic bottles and carry bags with no proper and well organized disposal mechanisms all end up in soil and water bodies as a sink.
The International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) initiated awareness raising campaigns against soil degradation at Global, Regional, National and Local levels in 2002.
In June 2013, FAO conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day and advocated for its official adoption by United Nations (UN). In December 2013, the 68th UN General Assembly declared 5th December as the World Soil Day and it has been commemorated since 2014
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Soil as a resource is being severely eroded due to rampant degradation. It is estimated that over 33% of the soils are degraded globally. Consequently, over 820 million people are food insecure and 2 billion (26% of the world population) are affected by malnutrition.
Hon. Vincent B. Sempijja has said that Africa is endowed with vast arable land compared to other continents. However, due to diminishing soil productivity, her Agricultural Domestic Product lies between 2% to 3% only. Such a scenario compelled African Heads of State to ascend to the Abuja Declaration in 2006.
The Abuja summit called on individual countries to increase fertilizer use from 8 to 50kg per hectare per year.
Uganda has some of the oldest and highly weathered soils whose productivity is low. Farmers’ yields are far below potential compared to research stations. Areas like Rakai, Kayunga, Iganga, Bugiri, Tororo, kumi have been observed to be producing with Negative Nutrient Balances.
Continued cultivation of soils without fertility enhancing technologies does not guarantee sustainability of agricultural production, the minister said.
Some Districts in Eastern Uganda are infested by Striga (Kayongo in Lusoga). This notorious invasive weed is an indicator of low soil fertility. Besides fertility decline, Soil degradation in Uganda is also being experienced through Soil Erosion, Excessive Compaction, Acidification and Salinization.
Government approved the National Fertilizer Policy (2016) and the National Organic Policy (2019) to provide direction to Agricultural productivity improvement through use of fertility enhancing technologies from both Inorganic and organic sources, as well as soil management.
Guanzhou Dongsong Energy Group at Sukuru in Tororo and Grain Pulse at Rwanyonyi in Mukono have have been attracted to invest in fertilizer manufacturing and blending which farmers have embraced.
As of today, there has been a general improvement of fertilizer use in the country from 1 to 3kg per ha per year, on average.
Ugandan Soil Scientists and stakeholders under a Global ended Project Conservation and Sustainable Management of Below Ground Biodiversity (CSM-BGBD), have invented a soil testing kit to rapidly determine the fertility status of a given soil.
The Minister has re-affirmed that the establishment of a Uganda Soil Institute will take shape at Busitema University with an aim to serve as a one stop center for adaptive soil research, skilling through tailor-made capacity building programs, outreach programs to practically disseminate improved soil management technologies, soil information and innovations and lobby and advocate for soil.
The institute will also implement the National Soil Policy which is under development by my Ministry and other stakeholders to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management.