Crop farmers’ hopes of increased production in the village of Garuka cell, Kikarara Parish, Bwambara subcounty in Rukungiri district have been restored after the Government through the water ministry commissioned Garuka small-scale irrigation scheme.
Epafrus Tukwatanise, the chairperson of the Garuka Farmers Association, told New Vision that before the scheme came, they were majorly rice and maize growers and planting one season in a year and that the yields would not be enough to look after their families or have surplus produce to sell.
“When the project came, we first despised it because we had never seen it anywhere and given that our major crop was rice. But when we got training from officials from the water ministry, the attitude kept on changing and we started planting high-value crops such as cabbage, onions, and tomatoes,” Tukwatanise said.
He said ever since the scheme came, the association members are doing their first harvest of both cabbages and tomatoes.
“But the yields are far better than what we used to earn through the rice. We have so far saved about sh4m on our bank account and harvesting has just started,” Tukwatanise said.
Evan Tukwatanise, another farmer who is benefiting from the scheme, said they have had a challenge of high school dropouts due to a lack of money by parents to pay school fees and he attributed this to high levels of poverty that had engulfed the area.
“I am grateful to the Government that thought about us and given the fact that this is our first harvest, we are optimistic that our incomes are going to shoot up and be able to get school fees for our children,” she said.
Evan called on all the mothers not to sit and beg their husbands for money to look after the family but rather join farming.
Garuka Irrigation Scheme, which cost sh850m, is currently demonstrated on 12 acres and is targeting about 500 homesteads.
Edward Tumwesigye Babona, the senior engineer from the water ministry, who handed over the scheme to the district officials recently, asked the local communities to use the scheme to transform themselves economically.
“This is now your project, it is no longer ours. The Government has invested much money here let the project transform your lives economically, make sure you plant high-value crops such as green peppers and cabbages and there will be no excuse,” Tumwesigye said.
He added that in most cases people tend to move downstream in search of water and end up encroaching on the environment.
“That is why we decided to bring water upstream so that our farmers can plant crops throughout the year without waiting for rains,” Tumwesigye said.
MYTHS ABOUT RAINMAKERS
Steven Nsubuga, the Rukungiri resident district commissioner, said that before the scheme came, there was social unrest and insecurity in the area due to mob actions against people who were suspected to be rainmakers causing them to have long dry seasons.
Nsubuga said people had started attacking those individuals they were suspecting to be causing long dry seasons.
“It became a security concern and as leaders, we had to step in to calm the situation. But ever since we got the scheme, we have not had incidents of that nature,” Nsubuga said. Winnie Tumuhairwe, the LCIII vicechairperson of Bwambara sub-county, said given the fact that the scheme is fully functional and people have water for irrigation, they won’t be scared by the long dry spells. “Those who have been calling themselves rainmakers and can cause dry seasons should get saved as early as possible,” Tumuhairwe said.