Rainwater harvesting knowledge and practice for agricultural production in a changing climate: A review from Uganda’s perspective

Nicholas Kiggundu, Joshua Wanyama, David Mfitumukiz, Revocatus Twinomuhangi, Bernard Barasa, Abia Katimbo, Florence Kyazze


With a changing climate in Uganda, rainfall distribution patterns have become more irregular over time and space. Excess water during rainy season is causing runoff, soil erosion, nutrient depletion and crop damage which reduce the productive capacity of land, while on the other hand, prolonged droughts during the crop growing period have become common occurrences. Additionally, pastoralists lose livestock during the dry period each year in the Cattle Corridor of Uganda due to water shortage and lack of forage. It thus remains difficult to achieve the agricultural development targets identified in the National Development Plan for Uganda, without addressing regular incidences of adverse impacts of climate change. Currently there are no well explained approaches which can contribute to adoption of technologies like rainwater management systems which are crucial in enhancing crop yields and livestock production during periods of water shortage. The overarching objective of this paper was to carry out an assessment of the status, performance, and scope for improving rainwater harvesting (RWH) for small-scale agriculture under local conditions. Accordingly, research gaps in RWH technologies were identified and documented to inform future studies. The research was carried out in the semi-arid areas of Nakasongola, Rakai, and Hoima Districts characterized by crop-livestock dependent livelihoods. Findings show that RWH Technologies can enable smallholder farmers and agro-pastoralists to become more resilient to increasing climate variability and climate change by conserving soil and water thus increasing food production and enhancing food security. Small-scale irrigation systems have enabled farmers adapt to drought challenges by enhancing crop yields and allowing farmers to target for higher market prices usually associated with the effects of drought. However, there are challenges including threats to sustainability of such established systems because of lack of community participation in systems’ monitoring and maintenances, and vandalism, and some systems require high investment costs. 


Rainwater harvesting, Smallholder, Pastoralists, Climate Change adaptation, Food Security, Crop Production, Livestock Production

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