Why we must pay attention to irrigation

Saturday October 27 2018

Michael J. Ssali

Michael J. Ssali 

By Michael J. Ssali

Uganda has often been described as a beautiful country that is also endowed with fertile soils and two rain seasons every year.
About 75 per cent of households are engaged in agriculture and nearly an equal percentage of our exports are drawn from agriculture.

Yet, ironically, we don’t commit even 10 per cent of our national budget to the sector and, therefore, we cannot claim to view it as a national priority with the potential to transform the economy into a medium income status by 2020 as our set goal dictates.
Farming is faced with big challenges today including climate change and one of the technologies we need to focus on is irrigation - perhaps the world’s oldest agricultural innovation.

Uganda which is the source of the River Nile, has a lot of rain, many lakes and swamps but our crops don’t have sufficient water much of the time given the current unpredictable weather patterns.
Wealthier countries such as Egypt don’t have as much rain as we do but their agricultural production is superior because they have sufficient water on their farms.

One is reminded of the point raised recently in Kigali by Dr Simeon Ehui, director, World Bank Agriculture Global Practice, when he praised Rwanda’s small-scale irrigation technology programme that allows farmers to continue producing during times of drought.

He said, “That approach is the epitome of what Africa can do. Crops do not need rain – they need water.”
Last Tuesday, Daily Monitor carried an article about a failed solar powered irrigation project in Lwengo District, which reportedly cost government Shs290m to construct.
For two years after its construction, water has been flowing and going to waste, due to a technical fault as the farmers’ crops dried up in the fields.

“This project and another one in Isingiro District were pilot projects and the government intended to construct more, later,” revealed George Matovu Saitoti, Speaker of Lwengo District Council.
Despite several appeals by the farmers to the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries to fix the problem, no response had been achieved so far.

— ssalimichaelj@gmail.com