Wednesday January 22 2014

Using irrigation boosts Mukono farmer’s earning to Shs2m a season

Apolot arranges the pipes in a row to irrigate

Apolot arranges the pipes in a row to irrigate the growing cabbage. Below, she fills the buckets with water and checks if they are properly aligned. PHOTO BY FRED MUZAALE 

By Fred Muzaale

I am Beatrice Apolot, a resident of Kikandwa village, Kasawo Sub county, Mukono District. I am a vegetable grower and at the same time I sell them in a market near my home along the Mukono-Kayunga high way.
I have been growing vegetables like cabbages and tomatoes as well as water melon for six years. But because of the unpredictable weather changes, I was incurring losses. During long droughts my crops would wither and dry up or because of fear to make losses, I would not grow crops. This resulted into low incomes for my household.
I did not have money to install an overhead irrigation system, I had left my farming at God’s mercy.

Simple and less expensive
But early last year, I and a few selected farmers in the sub county, went to a seminar organised by Appropriate Technology Centre for water and sanitation at Mukono District headquarters.
During the seminar, we were taught how to use simple and less expensive but effective drip irrigation system to water crops so that I could grow crops throughout the year. The seminar gave me hope that I could fight poverty in my home when I grow crops uninterrupted.

In October last year, I decided to try the appropriate technology type of irrigation I had been taught. I started with growing cabbages. I made a nursery bed and after that, I installed the irrigation system.
I started by buying five 20-litre buckets at Shs17,000 each. I also bought water five pipes each with a length of about 50 metres. I drilled small holes in the plastic pipes, through which water can pass in small quantities. Each hole is 40 centimetres apart from the other although the distance from each other depends on the type of crop one is going to grow. But because I was growing cabbages, I made the holes 40 centimetres apart.
I got poles which I placed firmly in the soil in a line. I tied the buckets up on the poles.
Under the buckets, I put a hole where the plastic pipes could go through the bucket. Each pipe runs straight through the garden. I do this in a garden, which is about a quarter an acre.

Teaching other farmers
I later transplanted my cabbages and planted them at every point where I had drilled a fissure. I go to the borehole from where I fetch water for the buckets.
In each bucket, I pour 20 litres of water. Because the buckets are at a higher point, water can easily run through the pipes and in the process it waters the crop through the fissure.

I apply this irrigation method when there is drought but when it rains I stop. It takes about one hour for each bucket to empty. I fill water in the buckets three times a day. I do this during the morning, afternoon and evening.
Because the borehole is near my garden, I do not find fetching water tedious. Currently, many farmers visit my garden to learn from me. I charge them only Shs5,000 per head to show them how to do it.

Ever since I started irrigating my crops, my yields have gone up and even during dry periods I get good harvests. In fact, my income has gone up because I sell vegetables during times when other farmers don’t have anything to sell. I hope to increase on the number of irrigation buckets so that I can increase on the acreage of my garden.

Supply the market
Currently, I earn about Shs2m a season from selling vegetables. In a year, I grow vegetables like tomatoes and cabbages three times. I sell the vegetables in a market alongside the Kayunga-Mukono highway while I also sell some to traders from Kampala and Mukono.
With proceeds from selling my produce and from training farmers I plan to start a retail shop in the nearby Kabimbiri trading centre as a way of diversifying my income.

However, my biggest challenge is birds that eat the vegetables especially when I grow them during the drought periods.
I also face a challenge of thieves who steal my vegetables at night from the garden as during this period the vegetables are on high demand hence their prices.

But despite these challenges, I want to continue practicing drip irrigation because I have discovered that I on many occasions, I am able to regularly and adequately suppy the vegetable market in my area.