Soroti farmers reaping big from irrigation scheme

SOROTI, April 11, 2024 – Tomato farmers in Alere village, Katine Sub-county in Soroti district who are benefiting from Alere Small Scale Irrigation Scheme are reaping big from growing tomatoes and other crops, thus beating household poverty.

The irrigation scheme under Water for Production Programme in the Ministry of Water and Environment focuses on small scale farmers to improve their livelihoods through increasing storage volumes of water for production. The farmers are now able to farm throughout the year since they don’t have to depend on rain.

Apart from tomatoes, the beneficiary farmers also grow onions, sukuma wiki, and pumpkins among others.

Charles Ariko, the Secretary of Alere Small Scale Farmers Association, says he was able to earn Shs 2.5mln from growing vegetables and other crops and has been able to take his children to school. “This project is benefitting us, we no longer struggle to feed our families, or take children to school,” Ariko said.

Patricia Agwang, another beneficiary says that during dry season she can still farm because of the available water for production and hence she is able to sustain her family throughout the year.

According to Eng. Patrick Okotel, the Water for Production Programme Coordinator, they gave farmers a loan of Shs 13mln as seed capital to boost tomato growing and the farmers were able to earn Shs 56mln from their first harvest.

“Traders came from Juba and bought all the tomatoes at Shs 56mln and that was a good start for the farmers,” he said. He appreciated Soroti District Local Government for opening up roads, saying the farms can now be accessible to the buyers.

Okotel however said need to produce in bulk so that they can address the challenge of sustainability.

Meanwhile Okotel said majority of the farmers sold their tomatoes at a much lower price between Shs 500-1,500 per kilo, saying it is a big loss.

“This time we produced 20 tonnes of tomatoes but majority sold cheaply, our expectation was Shs 40mln if we had sold at Shs 2000 per kilo,” he added.

He encouraged the farmers to adequately utilise the land under irrgation to sustain their livelihoods.

Meanwhile, Moses Echeku, the Soroti District Agricultural Officer, said farmers with at least 2.5 acres of land will benefit from the irrigation scheme.

Echeku said the farmer groups must be in a place with a water source and then they can be taken through to acquire the irrigation system.

Other irrigation schemes constructed by the Water ministry under the Water for Production Programme include Awoja Solar-powered Irrigation Scheme in Auto Sub-county, and Opiyai Small Scale Irrigation Scheme in East Divison, Soroti City. These have helped farmers grow other crops like red pepper, and water lemon.

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