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Coffee farmers in Lango urged to practice simple irrigation

LIRA, January 19, 2024 - The Uganda Coffee Development Authority [UCDA] has advised farmers in Lango Sub-region to practice simple irrigation on their coffee farms during drought, saying it is cheap.

According to experts promoting irrigation, simple irrigation is done manually, with a farmer pulling out water from wells or canals by himself or using cattle and carries to farming fields where water bottles, and water cans are used as irrigation tools. Farmers use ash and charcoal to retain moisture in the soil.

There are over 100 farmers in the districts of Otuke, Lira, Alebtong, and Oyam in Lango Sub-region that have established coffee farms.

Dr Emmanuel Iyamulemye Niyibigira, the Managing Director UCDA said simple irrigation is cheap and can help boost coffee  yields if managed well.

Collect some plastic water bottles and fill this bottles with water for irrigation, continue to put there ash with charcoal so that they retain the moisture, plant more shade trees, the coffee trees that are under the shade will always have good beans and aroma,” Iyamulemye said.

Whereas Dr. Charles Mugoya, the chairman of Board of Governors UCDA said using mini and large-scale irrigation systems in Lango Sub-region is tricky for some of the  farmers since  their farms are located far away from the water sources. "so we are encouraging those farmers with farms near water sources to invest in simple irrigation and where possible we will support them with inputs,” Mugoya said.

According to Dorcus Alum, the Lira District Agricultural Officer, Lango Sub-region generally suffers from drought because its rain patterns are unpredictable.

Alum said that she is also a victim because her coffee has been affected by drought and yet it needs a lot of water for better yields.

“I am an experienced coffee farmer but my challenge has also been drought and yet when there is good rain, you get a very good harvest which bring in a lot of money for the farmers,” Alum said.

Andrew Okello Awany, the UCDA Regional Coffee Coordinator for Otuke, Alebtong and Lira districts in Lango Sub-region said he has been encouraging the farmers to use simple irrigation in their gardens in order to get good yields.

“The most common challenge that farmers experience is drought, but we are telling them to find a way of watering their coffee gardens even if they are far from the water sources, like drilling boreholes," she said.

Much as Lira district has Small Scale Irrigation Programme being implemented where a farmers pays 25 percent of the total cost of the solar-powered irrigation systems and government pays 75 percent in a co-funding arrangement, Denis Okello a coffee farmer appealed to government to support farmers whose coffee farms are below 2.5 acres, noting that they are not beneficiaries of the programme.

A farmer drawing water from an underground water source to water her coffee garden (Photo by Marion Ajwang).

“I have more than two hectares of coffee plantation and it is hard to get equipment through Small Scale Irrigation Programme. If government could help us with the irrigation system, it would do us a great deal for pour production because coffee needs a lot of water,” Okello said.

Jasper Patrick Omongo, a resident of Awori Parish, Ajuri County,Alebtong district told this reporter his 400 coffee seedlings of the 2,116 planted were affected by the prolonged drought about a year ago. However he said he will now use simple irrigation to keep his coffee trees healthy, having gotten training on the use of this method.

Ruth Masika Ojede a resident and coffee farmer in Aminyanga Cell, Lira City West Division, urged the production department in Lira district to avail them with the cheap  irrigation system so that their livelihoods can be improved through good yields of coffee.

“I planted 200 seedlings in 2016 but they dried and I remained with only 21 stems, my yield were affected because of weather challenges, if we could be availed with irrigation equipment, this could change for the better,” Ojede said.

Bernard Benson Apita, also a coffee farmer in the area said although he invested in drilling a borehole, he does not have money for the water pumping equipment.

“I am stuck, I borrowed Shs  5 million  from our savings group to drill a borehole  at home to help me irrigate my coffee garden but I don't have money to buy solar and pump,” Apita said.

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