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Agriculture: Among asks MPs to review status of valley dams

KAMPALA, November 29, 2023 – The Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, has tasked Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to make a comprehensive study on the status of valley dams and irrigation schemes across the country.

Among made the directive yesterday during the plenary sitting where the committee presented its assessment report of water for agriculture facilities based in the Karamoja and Teso sub-regions.

“Teso and Karamoja are a small portion of the country. You have left out the cattle corridor which is affected. All these issues are true and the minister [Agriculture] cannot deny it,” Among said.

The committee report presented by the chairperson, Janet Okori-Moe, assessed eight valley dams in five districts of the Karamoja sub-region, and six irrigation schemes in four districts of the Teso sub-region.

The committee observed that works on most water for agriculture facilities had delayed, were facing land discrepancies or had not been handed over to the respective local governments upon completion.

“Kosike Valley Dam in Amudat district is not yet complete and construction works have stalled. Construction started in June 2022 but has stalled since December 2022, due to lack of involvement of local leaders and demand for compensation by the land owners,” Okori-Moe said.

In Bukedea district, the committee noted that that project implementation of the Acomai Irrigation Scheme was slow, standing at 30 per cent progress, in contrast to the finance ministry’s report that works had reached 47 per cent by July 2023.

“The rate at which water for agricultural production facilities are degenerating is high due to poor construction, poor maintenance by the community and lack of handover of facilities by responsible ministries,” said Okori-Moe.

She highlighted a number of crosscutting recommendations that include among others, ensuring contractors complete works of the water facilities without comprising quality, as well as coordinating extension services to farmers.

The Obongi County MP, George Bhoka reiterated the Speaker’s directive for a nationalistic approach to the committee report, saying most issues cut across water-stressed areas in the country.

“I suggest that the committee considers a more comprehensive assessment to look into other areas like West Nile, Busoga and Bunyoro among others, to have a national picture of the situation,” Bhoka said.

The agriculture minister, Frank Tumwebaze, attributed the delays in completion and handover of valley dams and irrigation schemes, to limited budgetary allocations for the purpose.

“Our development budget for the ministry ranges between Shs90 billion to Shs130 billion for the whole country. Water for agriculture gets 60 per cent of that budget which comes in quarters,” Tumwebaze said.

He added that the ministry has built in-house capacity by deploying ministry engineers under the mechanisation department, which he says has cut on implementation costs.

He also said that valley dams and irrigation schemes under construction will be fenced off and handed over to the respective local governments.

The water facililities that the MPs visited were; Nakonyen Valley Dam [Moroto], Katotin Small Scale Irrigation Scheme, and Kosike Valley Dam [Amudat], Longoromit Valley Dam, and Usake Valley Dam [Kaabong], and Kawomeri Valley Dam, and Kanu Valley Dam [Abim], all in Karamoja Sub-region.

In Teso Sub-region, the MPs visited Alere Small Scale Irrigation Scheme [Soroti], Acomai Irrigation Scheme, and Akero Valley Tank [Bukedea], Amosingo Small Scale Irrigation Scheme, and Agurut Valley Tank [Kumi], as well as Opapa Small Scale Irrigation Scheme [Serere].

Nakonyen Valley Dam

The MPs in the report urge the Ministry of Agriculture to act fast. For example, they they point out that  Nakonyen Valley Dam whose cost has been increasing over time, from the original cost of  Shs  8.1 billion. “At the time of the Committee visit, it had increased to Shs 9.1bln, they reported to the House on Tuesday, adding that  as of October,2023, the agriculture ministry had revised the cost of the project to Shs 10.9bln.

“After nine months, the project is behind schedule and may not be completed
within the planned timelines since the expected date of completion keeps on
being extended. The Committee was informed that construction of the valley dam would end in November, 2O23. When the Committee interacted with MAAIF, the date was extended to December, 2O23.” The MPs put the project’s progress rate  at 45 percent 45 percent – 50 percent.

The facility whose construction started in January 2023, two months late, will hold1,580,000 cubic metres of water and will serve the people of Tapac and neighbouring communities who keep livestock.

The MPs in their report state that the project design provides for watering points for livestock but lacks a provision for irrigation, aquaculture and provision of clean water for domestic consumption.

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