The South Western Rangelands Agro Ecological Zone (SWRAEZ) is located in the southwestern part of Uganda. The zone covers the southern part of the cattle corridor and is comprised of 13 districts, namely, Buhweju, Bushenyi, Ibanda, Isingiro, Kiruhura, Lyantonde, Mbarara, Mitooma, Ntungamo, Rakai, Rubirizi, Sembabule, and Sheema. The zone has a total surface area of 35,432 km2, which is about 14.7% of the national surface area (241,550.7 km2). The zone has a total human population of 3,847,300 people of which 1,901,200 (49.4%) are male and 1,967,000 (50.6%) female (UBOS, 2012)
Rainfall in the zone ranges from 915 to 1223mm and is bimodal with temperature ranging from 12.5 to 30oC. The soils vary widely, with the northern districts being dominated by sandy loams while districts in the southern part are dominated by clay loams. The major vegetation types include savanna grasslands interspersed with shrubs, forests and woodlands. The main economic activities in the zone include crop and livestock farming. Crops grown include banana, coffee, tea, sorghum, rice, maize, millet among others. Other major enterprises include livestock such as sheep, goat and cattle which is the main source of milk and beef for the country. The zone is also endowed with natural resources such as forests, wetlands, national parks, and lakes all of which provide a variety of ecosystem services.The key SLM challenges in the zone include soil erosion, prolonged and severe droughts, over grazing, bush burning, deforestation, wetland encroachment, declining soil fertility, among others. Opportunities however include ongoing soil and water conservation interventions e.g. mulching, agroforestry, contour bunds, etc. Byelaws are also put in place for improved land management and to mitigate wetland encroachment. Furthermore, there is abundant supply of livestock manure for improving soil fertility.
Different approaches to address the SLM challenges include farmer field days (intra and inter-zonal), demonstrations, field trainings, farmer to farmer learning visits, National Agricultural shows etc. Partners of SLM include the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), Mbarara Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MbaZARDI), district and sub county local governments, schools and local communities.Recommendations include, sensitization of local communities on land degradation, providing the local communities with incentives like free tree seedlings, farm implements, improved seed varieties, trainings to upscale the adoption of SLM technologies, training agricultural extension and community based officers to intensify the adoption of SLM technologies to the communities and promote tree planting to rehabilitate the degraded bare hills among others.
• Dr. Halid Kirunda (Director of Research MbaZARDI)
• Mr. John Sendawula (SLM Specialist MbaZARDI).