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Lira Institute Starts Compulsory Irrigation Course

by Wangah Wanyama
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By Arnest Tumwesige

Science students in Uganda’s northern city of Lira have begun undergoing compulsory training on mini small-scale irrigation units that can be used at household level.

The innovation is a response to how learners can use the available nearby water sources, including running water, to create an irrigation unit to irrigate crops in the dry season.

Sunday Abalo Mary, a student at Fountainhead Institute of Management and Technology (FIMAT), told New Vision that her parents are already supportive of buying the requirements for starting an irrigation unit.

The two-year-old, who is doing a two-year certificate in plumbing course, said the presence of a swamp in Guti village, Ojur parish, Lamiyo sub-county in Agago district is an opportunity for them as a family.

“I come from a village where a swamp is close to our home. I am glad that my parents are willing to support me. We suffered with food security during the [COVID-19] pandemic, which must be addressed,” said Abalo, who is also the students’ coordinator.

Emmanuel Omara from Acero village, Aweigwech parish, Aboke sub-county in Kole district said apart from establishing the irrigation unit at home with the support of his parents, he also wants to share the knowledge with his peers.

The 21-year-old national diploma water engineer student at FIMAT said in the dry season, they engage in vegetable growing at home and they irrigate the plants by using containers.

“In the dry season, we have been carrying water from Kole swamp to irrigate vegetables that we eat and also sell. This technology will solve this challenge and we are planning to expand the garden from one to two acres,” said Omara.

Abalo and Omara and four other students showcased the technology during the seventh graduation of FIMAT last Friday.

Low-cost technology

Grace Atimango, a lecturer of civil and water engineering at FIMAT, said the irrigation project targets all science students to have knowledge on how to counter long dry spells in their respective communities.

She is the main brain behind the project.

She said the project requires sh250,000 to establish a unit with an irrigation coverage of two kilometres in radius.

“Once the water source is within 10 metres, the technology we have designed requires a submersible water pump of sh120,000 solar power to pump five liters of water per second.”

The project being implemented by FIMAT, a training centre located in Lira’s West Division, is targeting all science students due to its interconnectedness.

During a group execution, students in electrical, plumbing, water, agriculture and civil come together to combine their knowledge hence learning from each other.

COVID-19 interrupts project  

In 2016, the institute entered into a partnership agreement with Sun Moyo, an Australia-based hybrid solar company to install a mega solar plant.

David Obero, the academic registrar, said through the feasibility studies that were concluded in 2019, households within the radius of two kilometres were to benefit from the project at zero cost.

“COVID-19 paralyzed the process. But from the training we acquired, this is the irrigation technology we are now putting in practice and more of these were going to be established in the neighborhood,” he said.

Prof. Opio Okaka Dokotum, the FIMAT deputy vice-chancellor, said agriculture is the launch pad of Uganda’s Vision 2040 of improving household income.

He commended the institute for the practical skills imparted to the learners to become relevant to the needs of their communities.

Uganda prone to food insecurity

A World Bank report from an August 2022 survey indicates that food insecurity in Uganda remains stubbornly high.

During round 9 of the study, food insecurity measured by moderate and severe food insecurity indexes were at very high levels of 48 and 11 percent, respectively.

With the highest levels of food insecurity observed in the poorest eastern and northern regions, the National Planning Authority (NPA) also shows that demand for food has outstripped the supply.

The policy brief of 2017/2018 indicated that due to a high population growth of 3% per annum, Uganda’s food production had stagnated at 2% for the last decade.

It recommended that the problem could be addressed with the establishing of irrigation schemes at district, sub-county, parish and village level by the agriculture ministry.

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