By Rogers Sunday
Government through the ministry of water and environment has constructed and handed over to farmers a solar powered mini irrigation scheme.
The scheme which sits on over 5 acres of land located in Kabende Sub County has been handed over to the Masongora Small Scheme Irrigation Farmers group.
While commissioning the project Festus Bandeba the Kabarole Resident District Commissioner (RDC) called on the beneficiaries to utilize the project to join the money economy.
He challenged them to jealously guard it against vandalism by cooperating with security and all its networks.
“Government has sunk sh 650m in water irrigation infrastructure to ensure that our farmers get produce both in and out of season” Bandeba said.
He praised the government for supporting farmers in Kabarole to shift from subsistence to commercial farming.
“Irrigation is where the value addition chain starts because farmers are able to produce quality products off season that later gain strategic entry into the market at a better price” Bandeba stated.
Stella Kyorampe the Vice Chairperson for Kabarole district Local Government advised the benefiting farmer group to concentrate on high value crops.
“You need to no focus on fast maturing crops so that in a year you can be able to have four successful seasons now that water for production is available” Kyorampe said.
She cited legumes and vegetables as some of the fast maturing crops that farmers may need to focus on.
“As farmers you will now need to think of starting to run a daily market stall here in Kabende market. This is because you will be producing fresh tomatoes, cabbages, beans, among others all year round and you must take them to the consumers” Kyorampe said.
She appealed to them to remain united as a group and to also be exemplary to the rest of the farmers.
“Much as you may individually be having other garden fields elsewhere, it is important that during the off season you all come together to collectively take advantage of this water for production” Kyorampe said.
James Katusabe the Kabende Sub County Chairperson revealed that despite the government supporting the farmers in the area with an irrigation scheme, they still lack extension service.
“For this irrigation facility to be meaningful to the farmers, a permanent agricultural extension worker is required. Apparently that position here is Kabende Sub County is not designated to anyone” Katusabe said.
He also explained that although the farmers have been trained, they still lack the technical aspect of how to maximally utilize the scheme.
“For the irrigation scheme to be sustained and fully beneficial to the farmers, it requires a technical advisor to be able to guide the farmers on a timely basis” he said.
In response Swaibu Balaba the Kabarole District Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) said that will soon address the matter.
During the launch, Katusabe also called on the Central government to support the lower local government to strictly implement environmental protection laws.
He specifically stated that the sustainability of their irrigation scheme will mainly depend on the protection and conservation of the environment.
“Itwara forest reserve must be conserved because it is a major contributor to the ecosystem for river Sogahi from which the irrigation scheme draws its water” he said.
He explained that once the environmental laws are not implemented, water sources will dry up and the irrigation scheme will lose meaning.
“We should not allow the remaining natural resources to be depleted because climate change is now real” he stressed.
Third irrigation scheme for Kabarole
The Masongora mini irrigation scheme adds to the other two schemes of Rwengaju and Kicuna that Kabarole has been having.
Ronald Matovu from the Ministry of water and environment said that the implementation of irrigation scheme projects is demand driven.
“The farmers in this area are very hardworking and productive. All they lacked was support to be able to produce crops all year round” Matovu said.
He observed that all the irrigation schemes in the district have positively contributed to increased food production in Kabarole and the surrounding areas.
Beneficiaries speak out
Reuben Turyamubona, a member of the Masongora Small Scheme Irrigation Farmers group told the New Vision that the handover of the project to them was long overdue.
He explained that so far, they have cultivated two seasons in the scheme and that the harvest is promising.
Evelyn Muhindo, another group member, said that the scheme will also go a long way in addressing food security and nutrition in their homes.
“There have been times in our homes when food is really scarce but all this is now going to be history now that we shall be planting all year round” Muhindo said.
She has appreciated the government for its support.
“Government has empowered us with this irrigation facility and as farmers we are now encouraged to even work harder and to be able to shift from subsistence to commercial farming so as to join the money economy” Muhindo said.
The solar powered scheme has both sprinkler and drip irrigation systems.