Thursday, October 29, 2015

When economics drives the land use change

In my last trip to Uganda, we did a transect drive through Hoima district, in search of the major land dynamics and see if we can make sense of potential up-coming changes. We found three very interesting land ownership that may result in more land conflicts in the upcoming years.

The hills 

The hills are owned by the king and are to be kept as forest. Up until today the king is respected and the hills are still covered with forest. These forest play an important ecosystem function, namely for water infiltration, making sure that ground water recharges during rains and limits erorsion.

The forested hills owned by the king
During the participatory GIS it was unclear if the power of the king could maintained and therefore the forest maintained, or if with population growth the forest could be encroached.

The up-coming airport and oil industry 

In a post from my second last trip i discussed the benefits of having oil companies coming to the area. However, in this trip we came across the downside of it.
A sign claiming land rights for the local population
Smallholders have been asked to evacuate their land, for giving space to the up-coming airport and the buildings needed for the oil industry. Whereas smallholders with land rights have been compensated, there is a debate on if they have been compensated fairly and as the sign suggest on the image above, some people are not ready to leave their land...

Commercial timber production 

Forest used to be public goods, and people could make use of them, and therefore overused them. Many grazing land, former forest land, has been given to investors for timber production.
commercial forest
The forest is now back, and so the water infiltration and erosion prevention function restored, however the forest diversity is much lower, and therefore less suitable for some threatened species.
Also, poor people in the area have lost access to their cheap (free) building material as now they have to buy wood from the timber company. This is hampering development of poor household into more intensified pig keeping.

Land use is dynamic, change will happen, and there will be winners and losers. Making our ex-ante environmental assessment model spatially explicit, will allow to identify the winners and the losers, discuss trade offs and hopefully find win-win situation in an area that will inevitably change in the up-coming years.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Greenhouse gases and rice, is it always a problem : in serach of rice in Hoima

On my recent field trip to Uganda, next to a participatory GIS exercise with stakeholders, we also went for a transect drive, in order to understand the major landscape dynamics in order to model correctly possible impact from value chain intensification. 

Paddy rice is a major factor of climate change, as methane is emitted when growing on waterlogged soils. When we heart that there was rice in Hoima, we decided to focus on rice in order to understand how and where it grows and put some thoughts together on how we will model rice.

a rice field next to a groundnut field
We found a lot of upland rice, a rice that does not need irrigation and therefore does not source of greenhouse gases more than other crops. We also figure out that rice was part of a crop rotation, so one year we could find rice, the next sweet potatoes or groundnuts. Also we found rice that was inter-cropped with maize.

a rice field inter-cropped with maize

We discussed with a farmer who had one of the nicest fields. From him we learned that he is mixing his own chemicals to treat weeds. He calculated for us that treating his rice was cheaper than hiring labor to do the weeding. He also encroached on the wetland, which is humid and therefore suited to rice. The first years rice yields are high, the other fields would yield less. He also mentioned that he got the seeds for free from the cooperative. For the record, he also had two piglets , two dairy goats and some chicken. 

We concluded that rice should not be modeled separately from other crops, and that more cropland will be gained from the wetland for rice.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Where does the feed come from ? visiting the mills

In Hoima, often pigs are fed on maize and rice bran, which is referred to commercial feeds. We decide to visit the goodman mill, and discover where the bran comes from.

Farmers bring their rice to the mills for the milling. They can just pay for the milling services, and take back the rice and the bran. The husk is a waste that has no value.
But often they sell their rice or their bran to the mill and the mill trades it with the intermediaries.
The mill also sometimes organize transport to the farms to pick the rice and mill it.

For both product, the rice and the bran there is no problem to market the products

The mills is quite small, so there is no place for storage which is also why the owners are not thinking to mix own pig feeds. Also they don't seem to be worried about the up-coming big feed production mill (from Devenish), they think they will still get the rice business and anyway the bran is just a business with waste.

Off-rice season, the mill processes cassava and make cassava flour.
The manager told us about her vision. She want to improve on her storage and reach higher quality than now. Higher quality of products will allow her package her products and sell to re-seller directly : so adding value.

Clearly the small mills focus on the main products, rice and cassava, and not on the waste that can be fed to pigs. They don't see their role as feed producer, not now and not yet in the future.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Expert knowledge to parametrize an ex-ante environemental assessement model

Over the last year, i have been contributing to an ex-ante spatially explicity environmental impact assessment for intensifying value chains. This year we want to adapt the tool to the pig value chain in Hoima Uganda. In order to parametrize the model and develop the new modules that are particular to pigs, we combined a participatory GIS (geographical information system) with a transect drive through the landscape.

The objective of the PGIS is to learn from stakeholder about the natural resource base of the area with a particular focus on water and soil health for which little data is available, about the current and the future pig keeping systems.

Each groups were given a set of paper based maps, as well as transparencies upon which the groups could map the natural resources and the pig keeping systems on transparencies that could be laid over the paper base maps.
Two groups negotiating the amount of existing pig keeping systems

The participants identified four pig keeping systems :
  • free range, where pigs are just roaming around
  • theathered, where pigs are often kept within the banana trees that need a lot of manure
  • padocking, pigs are enclosed within an area but free with the area
  • intensive in build structures, pigs are kept in units from wood or concrete
 Each system was described in detail in terms of feeds, breeds, manure mangementchallenges, markets and mapped out.

participants stepping out of the timeship
In the afternoon, we asked to participants to board a timeship and we flied to Hoima 2025, and visited successful farmers as well as the poorest one. We then discussed how systems have changed : free range has disappeared, and high level integrated farms have emerged, these farms also have slaughterhouse  and a cold chain. The old and the new systems where also described and mapped.
weighting the future systems

In the end participants could weight in which system most of the farms will be in 2025.

Participants really enjoyed the day at the workshop, also because they have been engaged during the whole day, no one has felt bored even for a minute and we have collected the necessary base information in order to set up the environmental impact assessment tools!  Keep posted from the update from the transect drive and learn about Hoima's landscape dynamics.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Land matrix : a database for land deals

During my post-doc in Ethiopia, more and more land was given to global investors for the best or for the worst. My blog has tried to collect stories from around the world on good and bad deals in terms of land ownership. Research on land deals was not possible because of the lack of data.

Recently i came across the land matrix, a crowd-sourcing platform that tries to address the data gap by asking people to contribute to a database with the knowledge they have. A quite cool initiative and a first database on land deals!

Check it out yourself and add your knowledge to the database!