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In Uganda most of the population lives in rural areas and depends directly on rain-fed small farms with little agricultural input use (NARO, 2001). Yet agriculture is the main source of livelihood, income, food, employment, and foreign exchange and supplies raw materials for domestic industries. This means that any slight variability in rainfall is reflected in the productivity of agricultural systems and pronounced variability results in far-reaching negative physical, environmental and social economic impacts. Rainfall is unreliable and highly variable contributing to very low crop yields. In addition, use of rudimentary implements, poor crop husbandry practices and lack of precise information on rainfall onset, duration, amounts and cessation make smallholder farming a risky business.

In most instances, farmers start opening land after rainfall onset and therefore valuable moisture is lost before they finally plant.  In reality, potential production is never attained due to a mismatch of the optimum moisture conditions and the peak water requirement stages of crops. Furthermore, prevalence of competing weeds, pests and diseases, low nutrient status of the soils and poor agronomic management practices usually cause additional reduction in crop and livestock production potential directly by influencing the health status of the crops and animals and indirectly through unavailability of quality pastures. 

Farming is prone to high risks because of the seasonal distribution and the highly variable nature of rainfall in space and time, coupled with its unpredictability. Extreme climate variability such as floods, drought, and frost among others has severe impacts on agricultural production often leading to instability in the agricultural production systems (Ogallo, 2002). Poor rains severely affect pastures and livestock in most pastoral areas of the country resulting into migration of thousands of people and animals in search of water and food. Excessive rains both in intensity and duration lead to water logging conditions that negatively affect crops and pasture. These conditions are also detrimental for post harvest handling and storage.  It is therefore very essential to generate seasonal characteristics to guide informed decision-making in rain dependant systems.

Further Information

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