Boosting irrigation: Govt earmarks Shs 560mln for Masindi farmers

MASINDI, May 22, 2024 – Government through the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries [MAAIF] has set aside Shs 560 million for individual farmers in Masindi district to purchase and use micro-scale irrigation equipment at a low price.

This is being done through the Micro-scale Irrigation Programme led by MAAIF’s Department of Agricultural Infrastructure Mechanisation and Water for Agricultural Production. The main aim of the programme is to enhance the uptake of cost-effective micro-irrigation technology by farmers in Uganda so as improve farm productivity and their standard of living.

According to Edina Kamuregeya, the programme’s Focal Point Person in Masindi district, the money was provided this financial year to help the farmers acquire the irrigation equipment through co-funding.

The programme supported by the World Bank is part of Uganda’s National Irrigation Policy which aims to create more irrigated land by the year 2040.

Under the project, government pays between 25 percent and 75 percent of the total cost of the irrigation equipment, but with a maximum contribution of Shs 7.2mln per acre. This means if a farmer wants to irrigate one acre he may pay between Shs 2mln and Shs 8mln depending on his farm situation and the irrigation equipment that he chooses. If the farmer wants to irrigate 2.5 acres, he may pay between Shs 5mln and Shs 20mln depending on his farm situation and the irrigation equipment that he chooses.

Kamuregeya said this financial year government is ready to support only 25 due to limited resources, although she adds most farmers in the district are unable to meet 25 percent co-funding for the irrigation equipment.

She said that of the 25 farmers that government is ready to support, only nine farmers have met the 25 percent co-funding requirement while the remaining 16 are yet to raise the money.

However, on Tuesday, the district authorities organised a meeting where the programme’s beneficiaries and financial institutions such as Post Bank Uganda, and ABSA among others, and it is expected that the latter will provide the former with quick loans for the irrigation equipment.

On his part, the Secretary for Production Masindi district, Geoffrey Bigabwa called upon the farmers to expedite the payment process to avoid the money being returned to the centre.

“All farmers who were considered should ensure that payment is done in time because the financial year is closing. What we don’t want to see is money being returned to the treasury. Micro-scale Irrigation Programme is here to boost agricultural production. Let’s utilise this chance that’s why we have even called the financial institutions to help you to get quick loans,” he said.

The principal Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Masindi, Musa Kyamiza, commended the programme, saying it will help subsistence farmers transition to commercial farming.

“We are experiencing a lot of climate change. Weather has become unpredictable hence affecting production. This is going to help you [farmers] do commercial farming even if it’s off-season. Fulfill all the requirements such that you are able to get your equipment,” he noted.

The beneficiaries who attended the meeting commended government for the initiative saying that depending on rain alone to produce is not sustainable due to climate change.

“This is a very big opportunity for us farmers. Our prayer to government is to support more farmers. We also request financial institutions to help us access quick loans such that we don’t miss this opportunity of buying the irrigation equipment at a subsidised price,” said Vicent Mugisa a farmer from Kibagya village Kimengo Sub-county.

In the same vein, the Resident District Commissioner [RDC] Masindi, Emmy Ngabirano, asked the bank officials to help the farmers get affordable and quick loans for irrigation equipment.

He urged the beneficiary farmers to take advantage of the programme, saying there is need to boost food production in Masindi district.

“I don’t want to see this programme being abused. This is your chance as Masindi. I don’t want to see you importing food from other districts when you have fertile land. Why don’t you use this chance to boost production and change our livelihoods? I want to see the beneficiaries becoming role models in the district. Use this opportunity to also implement the four-acre model,” he said.

In order to benefit from the programme, a farmer must be near a water source [within 700 metres]. Smallholder farmers willing to move away from subsistence farming to commercial farming will be supported to acquire equipment of their choice.

Although the grant is meant address financial gaps inhibiting the expansion of the irrigation sub sector, individual farmers will be expected to co-fund as a way of promoting ownership. The irrigation programme supports farmers’ capacity to cope with climate risks and reduce farmer’s vulnerability to floods and droughts, currently perceived by smallholder farmers as the main risk to agriculture.

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