Growing cover crops for weed control [Uganda]

Pito cam me neko doo

technologies_3306 - Uganda

Completeness: 90%

1. معلومات عامة

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:

Sabiti Kidega Faith

Gulu Uganda Country Diary Farm

P.O box 388, Gulu Uganda


Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Scaling-up SLM practices by smallholder farmers (IFAD)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Makerere University (Makerere University) - Uganda

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

When were the data compiled (in the field)?


The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?


1.5 Reference to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Approaches

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Cultivating leguminous crops in weed prone fields to help overgrow and kill the weeds

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Weeds account for a substantial proportion of crop yield losses among farming communities in northern Uganda. Weeds reduce farm and forest productivity, by depriving them of soil nutrients and water, the latter especially during dry seasons.

Majority of farmers in northern Uganda weed fields using rudimentary methods such as hand-hoeing and hand picking; both of which are manual and ineffective. Mechanized and herbicide weeding methods are out of reach of typical small scale farmers in the region. Moreover, alternative, more cost effective and environmentally augmenting natural weed control methods such as cover crops or living mulch exist, but are yet to be adopted widely in the region. Cover crops are creeping leguminous crops such as Macuna beans (mucuna pruriens) and local wild beans, which are planted in fields purposely to suppress weeds, control runoff and soil erosion, conserve soil moisture, fix nitrogen, regulate soil temperature, improve soil structure and provide fodder for livestock.

In northern Uganda, cover crops are usually planted at a spacing of 2 meter by 2 meter (see figure below) and in holes of 5 cm depth. Cover mulches are generally planted after the main crops have been harvested to minimize cover crop-main crop competition for resources. Nevertheless, planting while the main crop is growing in the field is also possible. However, the main crops should be given up to five weeks to establish before planting your cover crop.

The cover crop technology, being a natural phenomenon is usually affordable by typical small scale farmers in northern Uganda. The only challenge is to access to quality seed of suitable cover crops. Otherwise, after sowing the first and purchased seed, the farmer uses own seed harvested from previous crops for subsequent season sowing. However, the farmer needs to ensure that cover crops do not become invasive in cropping fields. This is done by clearing cover crops just before their fruits mature. As such, only a portion of the cover crop to be left for seed purpose is allowed growth to full maturity.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:


Further specification of location:

Nwoya District


The other location is mapped for available seed of a good cover crop (in Gulu)

2.6 Date of implementation

Indicate year of implementation:


2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through projects/ external interventions

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production
  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • create beneficial economic impact

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

الأراضي الزراعية

الأراضي الزراعية

  • Annual cropping
  • Perennial (non-woody) cropping
  • Tree and shrub cropping
Main crops (cash and food crops):

Maize, cassava, bananas, oranges, mangoes, tree plantations

أراضي الرعي

أراضي الرعي

Extensive grazing land:
  • Semi-nomadism/ pastoralism
Intensive grazing/ fodder production:
  • Cut-and-carry/ zero grazing
  • Improved pastures

3.3 Further information about land use

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 2

Two rainy seasons

3.4 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • rotational systems (crop rotation, fallows, shifting cultivation)
  • improved ground/ vegetation cover
  • integrated pest and disease management (incl. organic agriculture)

3.5 Spread of the Technology

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • applied at specific points/ concentrated on a small area

gardens ranging from 0.25 to 5ha

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A1: Vegetation/ soil cover
  • A2: Organic matter/ soil fertility
vegetative measures

vegetative measures

  • V2: Grasses and perennial herbaceous plants

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
soil erosion by wind

soil erosion by wind

  • Et: loss of topsoil
chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cp: soil pollution
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bp: increase of pests/ diseases, loss of predators

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • reduce land degradation
  • restore/ rehabilitate severely degraded land

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology


sunday balla




Amale Balla Sunday




Kaheru, Prossy



4.2 Technical specifications/ explanations of technical drawing

Spacing between covercrop plants: 2m X 2m, plant one seed per planting hole.

4.3 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology area
Indicate size and area unit:


other/ national currency (specify):

uganda shillings

Indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (if relevant): 1 USD =:


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.4 Establishment activities

Activity Type of measure Timing
1. Obtaining seed Management dry season
2. Digging the holes for planting Agronomic onset of rains
3. Planting covercrop seeds Agronomic onset of rains
4. Clearing cover crops (partly) Management at fruit set
5. Harvesting covercrop seed Management at seed maturity

Most of the field is cleared, only a portion about 10m x 10m is left to grow to provide seed for saving

4.5 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour During planting personnel 2,0 5000,0 10000,0 100,0
Labour Clearing personnel 6,0 5000,0 30000,0 100,0
Labour Harvesting personnel 1,0 5000,0 5000,0 100,0
Equipment Hand hoe pieces 1,0 12000,0 12000,0 100,0
Equipment Slashers pieces 1,0 6000,0 6000,0 100,0
Plant material Seeds kg 2,0 8000,0 16000,0 100,0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 79000,0

4.6 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Type of measure Timing/ frequency
1. Planting Agronomic once after every 3-4 years
2. Clearing Management once after every 3-4 years
3. Seed harvesting and saving Management once after every 3-4 years

4.7 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Planting personnel 0,5 5000,0 2500,0 100,0
Labour Slashing personnel 1,5 5000,0 7500,0 100,0
Equipment Handhoe pieces 0,25 12000,0 3000,0 100,0
Equipment Slashers pieces 0,25 6000,0 1500,0 100,0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 14500,0

The cost is given as an estimate since it would be incurred once every 3-4 years. So, values of quantity per year is 0.25 of 4 years.

4.8 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Labour for slashing the covercrop

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Indicate if the Technology is specifically applied in:
  • not relevant

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • fine/ heavy (clay)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

> 50 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

poor drinking water (treatment required)

Is water salinity a problem?


Is flooding of the area occurring?


5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • medium
Habitat diversity:
  • medium

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Sedentary or nomadic:
  • Sedentary
Market orientation of production system:
  • subsistence (self-supply)
Off-farm income:
  • > 50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • poor
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • women
  • men
Age of land users:
  • middle-aged
  • elderly

5.7 Average area of land owned or leased by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • medium-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, not titled
Land use rights:
  • individual
Water use rights:
  • communal (organized)

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production

Quantity before SLM:

1200kg per ha

Quantity after SLM:

1800kg per ha

Comments/ specify:

Yields pertain to maize

crop quality

Quantity before SLM:

poor seed

Quantity after SLM:

good quality seed

fodder production

Comments/ specify:

Slashed cover crop as feeds

fodder quality


animal production


risk of production failure


production area

Income and costs

expenses on agricultural inputs

Quantity before SLM:

20000 per year

Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

Pertains to herbicides

farm income



Comments/ specify:

Now weed garden once a season. Before farmers used to weed 2-3 times per season.

Socio-cultural impacts

food security/ self-sufficiency


SLM/ land degradation knowledge


Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff




6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

buffering/ filtering capacity


wind transported sediments


6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season Type of climatic change/ extreme How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase very well
seasonal temperature dry season increase well
annual rainfall decrease very well
seasonal rainfall wet/ rainy season decrease very well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local windstorm well
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought well

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive

How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • 1-10%
Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many have did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 90-100%

6.6 التكيف

Has the Technology been modified recently to adapt to changing conditions?


6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
reduction of workload on the farmer during weeding
Reduction of erosion and improvement of soil fertility as the cover crop in most cases is a legume
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Sustainable source of green manure, animal manure
Farmers can save own seed

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Requires to be planted very early at onset of season
Can become invasive if not well managed

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys


  • interviews with land users


  • interviews with SLM specialists/ experts


Links and modules

Expand all Collapse all