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Poverty blamed for low uptake of irrigation technologies in Lira district

LIRA, March 4, 2024 – The authorities of Lira district have attributed the low uptake of the micro-scale-irrigation technologies to poverty and the poor mindset of some of the farmers in the district who are used to getting free materials for their farms.

The small-scale irrigation technologies in Uganda are obtained through the government-funded Micro-scale Irrigation Programme which supports farmers to purchase and use individual irrigation equipment. The Programme supports farmers in purchasing irrigation equipment through a matching grant scheme, in which the cost of the equipment is co-financed by the farmer and the government.

According to the officials in Lira district, out of the 2,500 farmers that were sensitised about the Micro-scale Irrigation Programme, the district has registered only 23 farmers who have shown interest to acquire the small irrigation equipment.

David Otim Otoo, the Lira District Agricultural Engineer said most farmers in the district don’t earn, which he said is the reason for the low uptake of the cheap irrigation technologies in the district.

Otim said since 2022, they have been sensitising farmers to register for the small-scale irrigation equipment which are cheaper when compared to those on open market.

“The adoption is still low because of poverty, farmers don’t have money and they still have that mindset that things are supposed to be given for them for free and yet irrigation technologies are expensive,” he said.

Denis Okello Obar who grows coffee on  his 8-acre piece of land urged government to consider farmers who have more than 2.5 acres that the irrigation programme targets.

Under the programme, government pays between 25 percent and 75 percent of the total cost of the irrigation equipment, but with a maximum contribution of Shs 7.2 million.

According to officials, if you want to irrigate one acre, you may pay between Shs 2mln and Shs 8mln depending on your farm situation and the irrigation equipment that you choose. If you want to irrigate 2.5 acres you may pay between Shs 5mln and Shs 20mln depending on your farm situation and the irrigation equipment that you choose.

Denis Opio, the General Manager of Nyeko Rac Community Farmers’ Cooperative Society Limited in Ogur Sub-county said that the micro-scale irrigation system favours the rich farmers who can raise the money at once.

Opio said most of the farmers depend on grains which prices have also gone down at the moment and yet farmers have to pay school fees for their children, hence limiting them from investing in the irrigation technology.

Thomas Okello, the Lira District Head of Production Officer said that, “There is a need for the establishment of more demonstration sites for irrigation systems but in a phased manner so that our people as well as farmers can replicate the technologies.”

Lira district has two demonstration sites for the irrigation systems in Aromo Sub-county staged at a farmer’s home in Erute North Constituency and another in Agali Sub-county installed at the Sub-county headquarters in Erute South Constituency.

Despite the low uptake of the irrigation technologies by farmers, Lira district received about Shs 475.3 million from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries [MAIF] to help in the sensitisation process so that farmers can adopt the small-scale irrigation technology.

The Micro-scale Irrigation Programme is led by the Department of Agricultural Infrastructure Mechanization and Water for Agricultural Production of MAAIF. The Programme is part of Uganda’s National  Irrigation Policy. This Policy aims to create more irrigated land by the year 2040.

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