Notes to broadcasters
Wetlands are crucial ecosystems that provide a wide range of environmental, social, and economic benefits. They act as natural filters, purifying water by trapping pollutants and sediments, which helps maintain water quality for human consumption, wildlife, and aquatic life. Wetlands also serve as flood buffers, absorbing excess water during heavy rainfall and reducing the risk of flooding downstream.
Furthermore, wetlands contribute to carbon sequestration, helping mitigate climate change by storing large amounts of carbon dioxide. They also provide recreational and cultural opportunities, such as bird-watching, fishing, and traditional uses by communities along these wetland systems.
But wetland systems are at risk from wetland cultivation, pollution from agro chemicals, climate change, and over harvesting of wetland goods and services like fish and thatching materials.
In this script, we meet two farmers from Wakiso district in Uganda. Christopher Nsamba lives in Buso village, in the sub-county of Busukuma, Kabumba parish, and grows vegetables and fruits while practicing wetland edge farming. We also have George Mpaata, who practices climate-smart agriculture instead of farming along the wetland systems. Wakiso District Environment Officer Esau Mpoza offers technical advice on how and why it’s important to protect wetland systems.
To produce a similar program on farmers adopting practices that benefit the environment while ensuring high yields, enhance community adaptation to climate change, and feed their families and community, you can use this script as a guide.
You could talk to local farmers as well as environmental experts, extension officers, and other experts.
You could ask them:
- What are the key challenges faced by farmers cultivating in the wetland systems and how can these challenges be addressed?
- How can water best be managed in fruit and vegetable cultivation to prevent harming wetlands?
- What are the government policies on wetlands and sustainable farming practices?
Estimated duration of program, including intro, extro, and music: 25 minutes
However, due to the high population pressure on wetlands, it’s critical to protect them.
This script tells the stories of some Ugandan small-scale farmers who used to grow their vegetables and fruits along wetland systems until they realized that their actions were degrading these areas. We learn about their experiences and their efforts to conserve wetland ecosystems, and how conserving wetland systems can help them successfully grow fruits and vegetables. In addition, an environment expert gives us the facts about the functions of wetland systems, how it is important to preserve natural ecosystems, and how that can lead to sustainable use of our wetland systems.
Our first interviewee is a dedicated farmer who not only grows fresh vegetables and fruits along the wetland system flowing through his land but also takes extraordinary measures to sustainably use and protect the wetlands on his farm. He will introduce himself, and then give us a summary of what he does.
Can you also introduce yourself to the listeners?
Rip lines are another method of digging a planting line in which you put your seeds. Rip lines are made using rippers, which are actually a type of hoe which we attach to either a tractor or oxen. Rip lines make deep planting holes, but don’t disturb the soil around the lines like regular ploughing does. All these farming techniques are important for conserving the land for sustainable use, and preventing soil and water from eroding or flowing to wetlands and degrading them.
We also dig contour lines across sloping lands to prevent erosion like I said earlier. We double-dig small gardens on our land for growing high-value vegetables like carrots, amaranths, cabbage, and others. So first, we dig a hole and make a pile of the hard pieces of soil on the surface. After about three days, we break the hard pieces of soil into soft soil. After softening the soil, we make lines, put biochar or fertilizer in the planting holes, then plant seeds or seedlings. These high-value crops are prepared for continuous harvesting. You can plant the vegetable seeds in the lines or transplant seedlings like cabbages, carrots, and tomatoes from nursery beds.
For these small gardens, you could plant in one small area, then after a month harvest your vegetables and plant in another block or two. These blocks of gardens have soft soil and we can transplant seedlings from other seed beds into them. We also add fertilizers like biochar. They get high yields even though they are small. They are not too hard to prepare although that requires some time. We normally prepare small blocks but you can make them bigger. We don’t generally need to weed since very few weeds grow in the gardens, and we can weed them by hand.
Additionally, we have set aside buffer areas around our wetlands and planted some natural trees and grass to prevent runoff from entering the wetlands to protect the water quality and wildlife habitat. Plus, we practice wetland-friendly irrigation techniques like using a simple watering can and not drawing too much water from the wetlands. In the rainy season, there is no need to irrigate. This helps to minimize water usage.
Another practice that works but preserves wetlands is beekeeping in swampy wetlands. Bees don’t harm the ecological balance of the wetland. If there is a forest in the wetlands, community members can mount bee hives on the trees. But if it is a papyrus wetland, you cannot do beekeeping there. So it depends on the nature of the wetland. So, the communities need to consult the technical teams in their district to be guided well.
Also, irrigation is a very good practice, but farmers have to be guided by technical people on where water storage tanks should be situated and how best to take the water from the wetlands without affecting the natural functioning of the wetlands.
For instance, in Wakiso, the majority of farmers engage in horticultural farming. Most of them use pipes to collect water from the wetlands. The water is then stored in reservoirs which are actually tanks. This helps them to have consistent availability of water for irrigation. These storage systems help regulate water distribution and maintain a steady supply for agricultural needs. Once stored, the water is distributed through a network of pipes to the fields that need irrigation. It is directed to the land that needs irrigation either by gravity, by pumps, or by a combination of both.
But commercial-scale flower farming is also happening and basically, they are using water from the wetlands. They must apply to the Directory of Water Development for Water Abstraction Permits which stipulate how much water they can use to ensure that they don’t over drain and negatively affect the wetlands.
Natural ecosystems like wetlands are home to a wide range of plants and animals, including many endangered species. So, maintaining natural ecosystems helps to preserve the biodiversity and genetic diversity of the planet, which is essential for sustainable livelihoods. Converting wetlands into agricultural land can have negative environmental impacts. Farmers must leave buffer zones near wetlands and swamps untouched; these areas act as natural barriers. Wetlands act as natural water regulators by absorbing excess water during heavy rainfall and releasing it gradually, helping to prevent flooding. They also help recharge groundwater, maintaining a stable and consistent water supply for irrigation.
Healthy wetlands support a wide range of plant and animal species, including insects that can serve as natural predators for agricultural pests. By preserving wetlands, farmers can promote a balanced ecosystem where beneficial insects help control harmful pests, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.
Thank you so much to all our guests for sharing your valuable insights today, and it has been a pleasure having you. In the program, we have had Christopher Nsamba, a vegetable and fruit farmer from Buso Namulonge, George Mpaata, another farmer from Izanhiro-Kamuli, and Esau Mpoza, the environment officer in Wakiso and an expert in sustainable farming and wetland preservation. They have been discussing how farmers can sustainably grow vegetables and fruits while protecting wetlands and swamps.
I hope you have learnt a lot from the program and can also try the same practices. And with that, we have come to the end of the program.
My name is _. Goodbye until next week.
Contributed by: Sarah Mawerere, producer, Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC)
Reviewed by: Gertrude Ojok, Network Development Manager, Africa, Forest Stewardship Council.
Christopher Nsamba, farmer, Buso, Wakiso District.
George Mpaata, farmer, Izanhiiro, Kamuli District
Esau Mpoza, District Environment Officer, Wakiso District
Interviews were conducted in the months of August and September 2023.