Pakwach. A section of farmers in the West Nile region is already reaping from small scale irrigation schemes set up by the government to improve agricultural production and productivity.
Olama Farmers Group comprised of ten farmers is one such beneficiary. The group is growing vegetables and fruits under the Andibo irrigation scheme in Panyango Sub-County, Nebbi District.
Last season, the group planted watermelon on half an acre and fetched Shs4 million. After saving 30 percent for sustainability, operations and maintenance costs, the Olama Farmer Group members shared the balance among themselves. Each took home Shs300,000.
Group members attribute the bumper harvest to good agronomic practices and constant supply of water from the irrigation system constructed early this year by the Department of Water for Production under the Ministry of Water and Environment.
“In the first season, we planted tomatoes on a quarter of an acre at Andibo and it fetched us Shs2.3 million. I received Shs185,000 from the dividend and this money helped me to pay fees for my two children in secondary school,” Norbert Jamondo, a member of Dikre En Etego Saving and Credit Cooperative Group said.
The government adopted an irrigation policy last year. One of the strategies of implementation is the construction of small scale irrigation schemes. Under this program, the government plans to construct 70,000 small scale irrigation schemes countrywide to improve agricultural production.
The department of Water for Production says it has so far constructed 13 small scale irrigation systems in West Nile, Lango, and Acholi sub-regions.
Another 12 sites are currently under different stages of construction and additional funding of Shs12 billion has been allocated to construct 30 small scale irrigation systems in the north and west Nile region due to the overwhelming demand for irrigation expansion.
Henry Kizito, the principal engineer in charge of planning and quality assurance at the Ministry of Water and Environment, explained that the project’s overall objective is to provide water for agricultural production services.
“The community can use these services to transform their livelihood by getting more income from the farming activities they undertake using the water from the schemes,” Kizito said.
Andibo is one the pioneer irrigation system completed early this year and Ms. Agnes Akumu, just like Jamondo, cannot hide her happiness after a good harvest. “I used to get less than Shs30,000 as an individual but last month I earned Shs52,000 for the first time after our group harvested onions and sold it. I used the money to pay fees for my two children who are studying at Oluku Parents’ Primary School here in Atyak Sub-county,” said Akumu.
The former LC3 chairman of Atyak Sub-county, Nestorie Aberka, testifies that several rural households in the area are celebrating the bumper harvest of vegetables as a result of a stable source of water supply from the irrigation scheme.
“Our people have benefited a lot from this modern farming, and at least now they are sure of sustainable income because they can plant crops throughout the year and reap from it,” said Aberka.
The number and size of the schemes in their current state cannot support all the farmers that require irrigation services for their crops. For instance, the Andibo scheme, which sits on 8.3 acres of land under irrigation, has only 16 plots. The scheme is benefiting 86 farmers yet there are over 30,000 farmers in Panyango Sub-county in need of irrigation systems.
The Ministry of Water and Environment has, however, downplayed this stressing challenge. Mr. Kizito said the projects were being extended not only in the region but the whole country.
“We cannot serve the farmers at once but we are doing it slowly. But also we know since this is serving as a demonstration, some farmers can learn from the schemes and have something to do at their respective areas,” Mr. Kizito said.
Mr. Edmond Okurmu, an agricultural officer for Panyango Sub-county in Pakwach says the project offers continuous training by experts. The training involves demonstrating irrigation technologies to farmers for adoption and water harvesting technologies.
The irrigation schemes target areas prone to prolonged drought due to climatic changes and human activities like tree cutting and overgrazing.