The second rainy season of 2022 is still.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Uganda receives on average over 1500mm of rainfall per annum.
But while this water is falling, over 95% of it is let to flow away into valleys before sinking off. For years, the use of rainwater has been and is still low despite the heavy rains received.
Focus has instead been on metered water systems regardless of their overhead costs. While this is attributed to convenience due to less initial investment in metered water supply systems, it is in a long run way too expensive than using the naturally available rainwater.
There is no small catchment area in rainwater harvesting, what matters is the rainfall intensity, you can have these rainwater harvesting systems efficiently working for you regardless of your structure design, shape and size.
But after these rains, as early as December or January (for the second rainy season) and June (for the first rainy season), the long dry season will set in. One of the dominant reports in the dry season is hunger, famine and death of animals due to lack of rain.
It will be surprising that animals within the cattle corridor will start dying due to lack of water and yet there was plenty of it a few weeks back.
Water is vital to the animal’s health, growth and milk production and to all key body functions such as digestion, transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
Milk comprises about 85% water. Water enables the animals to digest both dry and fresh feeds.
Lack of sufficient quality water reduces the quantity of feed consumed and digested by the animals which in turn reduces the amount of milk produced and overall animal performance.
A dairy cow requires about 5 litres of water for every litre of milk it produces. Therefore a cow producing 10 litres of milk a day must drink about 50 litres/day. The amount required also depends on breed, body size, and season. If no water is provided for some time, then the animal will certainly die.
Crop farmers, for example, those dealing in perennial crops like coffee and citrus will also start losing their trees due to lack of water.
In the last long dry season between December 2016 and March 2017, farmers lost both crops and animals-especially in Isingiro, Rakai, parts of Teso, Karamoja etc.
So as the rainy season intensifies, farmers should learn mitigating factors against future dry seasons. This is why while we may have rain now, we shall not have it between December and February. This is why a farmer must harvest water now and store it for future usage.
There are very many ways of collecting rainwater off a structure, from runoff down hills, roads etc, however, the main component of the system should be a storage system of some kind, for example, a water tank that can be either surface or underground.
It can be a pond dug in a valley where water runs off from uphill, or it can be gullies dug in your garden to retain some water or even water canals.
In all these, the accelerating reason for the adoption of which method to use has, however, been three-fold: the cost, the system durability and the area available to have such a required size; any system that can meet this criterion satisfies the end user.
Now that the wet season has come again, tap the rain before it drains away.
Enrolling many homes with water harvesting systems, farms, institutions, and offices in using rainwater will among other advantages reduce floods, increase water security, relieve stress on metered water sources, keep the hydrologic cycle in check and balanced, but most importantly it will save the money that you spend on daily water bills.
There is no reason why you should use only metered water as your sole water when we have these resources from the sky.
The good thing is that as long as the harvested water is stored in a clean tank, it can be used for as long as six months for animals and much longer for crops. In case you feel it is not pure, there are water-purifying tablets on the market that farmers can buy.
There are several ways of getting water from the reservoirs. For example, you may use pails fixed with ropes to draw the water, a pedal pump that costs sh500,000 or if you are a commercial farmer, you can simply install a motorized water pump whose cost runs from around sh800,000.
Harvesting water helps farmers save a lot of money that would otherwise have been spent on piped water for domestic use.
However, the highest benefit is in keeping your animals and crops well-watered during periods of drought. For example, a dairy cow requires at least 40 litres of water per day.
However, many farmers give them less water during the dry season because of poor supply.
Many experts can help farmers set up these water harvesting systems. However, some of them are not so complex and any farmer on the farm can set them up.