The Northern Agro-Ecological Zone (NAEZ) is located in northern Uganda. It is divided into two broad sub-regions i.e. Acholi and Lango, each comprised of eight (8) districts. These districts include: Agago, Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, Lamwo, Nwoya, Omoro, and Pader in Acholi sub-region: Alebtong, Amolatar, Apac, Dokolo, Kole, Lira, Otuke, and Oyam in Lango sub-region. The zone has a total land area of about 37,456.9 km2, which comprises about 15.5% of the national land area (241,550.7 km2) with a total human population of about 3,856,928 people (UBOS, 2012).The zone experiences a uni-modal rainfall pattern (about 1500mm annually) stretching from April to November with an extended dry period from December to March. Temperature for the zone ranges between 16 and 23oC. Ferralsols and Leptosols with a sandy loam texture are the dominant soil types. Farming is the main economic activity in the zone entailing crop enterprises like maize, millet, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, sunflower, groundnuts, cotton and tobacco; and livestock farming especially dairy cattle, dual-purpose indigenous cattle breeds, goats, pigs and sheep. NAEZ is endowed with a variety of natural resources, which provide enormous ecosystem services; these include: wetlands, papyrus swamps, palm trees, dry woody savanna forests, rivers (Nile and Moroto), lakes (Kyoga and Kwania), and a national park (Murchison Falls National Park).
To highlight, NAEZ is the second erosion-prone/degraded region in the country after the mountainous regions. This is attributed to the zone’s unique climatic characteristics .i.e. long dry spells which scorch the savanna vegetation leaving the land exposed to agents of erosion. The situation is further exacerbated by the routine bush burning deeply entrenched within the culture of the local communities. The drivers of degradation are deforestation, brick making, bush burning, wetland encroachment, overgrazing and murram mining among others. In regard to land degradation, the zone has put in place measures to address these challenges and these include; increased taxes on charcoal trucks, increased community sensitization on land degradation issues, and provision of tree seedlings at subsidized costs. There are several unique opportunities for sustainable land management in the zone including availability of oxen for mechanized conservation farming, agro-forestry, soil and water conservation interventions, and presence of the Ngetta Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (NgeZARDI) which is a centre for technology development and agricultural information dissemination. Furthermore, NAEZ was ravaged by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war for almost 20 years (from 1986 to 2006) which resulted into displacement of people, inevitably forcing people off their land. This inadvertently helped to rest the land, allowing for rehabilitation of formerly degraded farmlands in the region. There are several partners operating in the zone to rehabilitate degraded lands/ hotspots. These include Goal Uganda, Care Uganda (for sustainable land utilization), and ACORD (for natural resources conservation, NAADS /Operation Wealth Creation, World Vision, CLUSA (for conservation farming), Land Care Network, PRELNOR and the Local Governments.
Recommendations for sustainable land management include but are not limited to; providing the local communities with incentives like free tree seedlings, minimum tillage farm implements (ox-drawn rippers), improved high yielding ,early maturing and drought tolerant seed varieties, and training districts and sub-county agricultural officers to increase the adoption of SLM technologies.Contact persons include Dr Laban.F. Turyagenda (Director of Research, NgeZARDI), Dr. Emmy Wasajja (SLM Specialist, NgeZARDI), and Mr. Joseph Tamale (SLM research component leader, NgeZARDI).