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Smallholder Farmers Need Crop Irrigation

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Stuart Katwikirize, a farmer in Ibanda, would watch helplessly as his 1,000-plus coffee trees withered under the long dry spells usually

experienced in the first half of the year.

It often resulted in poor harvests, with the plantation only able to produce less than half the expected output.

However, he is now hoping for better times ahead after acquiring crop irrigation technology to support his agricultural enterprises.

“My target is to triple the current production capacity in the next two years, from 3kg of ‘clean’ beans per tree annually to 9kg per tree in

the same period. This will also push up the family income from coffee to sh30m annually, from the present sh10.5m,” says Katwikirize, who is also a beneficiary of the governmentpromoted-micro-scale irrigation scheme programme.

The government provided the farmer with a full irrigation system, which was installed at his coffee farm to water the crop. The farm will also act as a demonstration site to promote crop irrigation in the


Katwikirize is optimistic it will enable him to beat the climate change woes, especially the prolonged dry spells, which affect the area, and, hence, drive up output.

The model unit was fully funded by the government and cost sh28m to install, according to the district production officer, Fredrick Ayorekire.

The farmer built two water dams at sh4m, but the other infrastructure was financed by the government.

The micro-scale irrigation scheme programme was rolled out last year and is being piloted in 40 districts countrywide, including Ibanda, to boost production among smallholder farmers. It will take three years, from 2020 to 2022 and aims at creating 3.75 million acres of land under irrigation across the country.

Other beneficiary districts are Amuru, Nwoya, Omoro, Kibaale,  Kyenjojo, Kyegegwa, Kamwenge, Kitagwenda, Bushenyi, Rukungiri and Ntungamo.

Farmers in Mubende, Sembabule, Kalungu, Bukomansimbi, Lwengo,

Masaka, Rakai, Kyotera, Mityana, Butambala, Mpigi, Wakiso, Nakaseke, Luwero and Mukono districts will also be supported during this phase. The others to be supported will come from Tororo, Kapchorwa, Manafwa, Mbale, Bududa, Sironko, Buikwe, Jinja, Luuka, Iganga, Mayuge, Kayunga and Kamuli.

Demo farmers

A demonstration farmer partners with the district to ease access to these technologies by the community.

“At the demo farm, the district showcases different irrigation technologies and sensitises the community on irrigation technology and

the benefits that come with adapting crop irrigation,” Abaho said.

“There are currently two demo farmers in Ibanda district — Katwikirize and another one from Ibanda Municipality,” he adds.

The demos are managed jointly by the district and the host farmer, with the district extension staff ensuring that the farmer adheres to best

practices at the scheme.

According to Abaho, 565 farmers in Ibanda have so far applied for the system.

Of these, district extension workers have visited 264 to assess whether they meet the programme guidelines.

“Twenty-nine farmers have been visited by suppliers and their quotations are expected at the district on October 14,” he said.

Through this project, the government meets 75% of the small diesel-run irrigation systems with the farmer providing the balance, while

it adds 25% for farmers that will opt for the solar-operated ones.

Here, farmers will add the remaining 75% of the costs. This means that a farmer may pay between sh2m and sh8m, per acre, depending on their farm situation and whether one selects solar or diesel-run

irrigation equipment, according to the cost sharing document from the agriculture ministry.

The farmers who opt for solar-powered systems pay more because they are expensive, according to Abaho.

Solar pumps range between sh10m and sh15m or even more,  depending on size, compared to about sh3m for diesel or petrol.

Community support

The district chief implored the beneficiary farmer to open the demo project so that community members can learn from it and go replicate at their own farms.

“The government is funding model farmers like you to encourage others to embrace the technology, after seeing the good results from using irrigation,” Mayanja said.

Fighting poverty, food insecurity

While launching the scheme in Ibanda recently, resident  district commissioner (RDC) Mary Bashongoka Kamaduka,

said technologies like micro-scale irrigation systems being promoted by the government were critical toward improved

production and food safety, as well as boosting household income.

“The current challenges of delayed rains or inadequate rainfall will be a thing of the past if farmers embrace crop irrigation

for sustainable agricultural production, enhance household incomes and ensure food safety as farmers will be able to

produce throughout the year,” Kamaduka said.

District chairperson Herbert Happy Mayanja encourages farmers to work in co-operatives to acquire small and movable

irrigation equipment, which they can use as a group.

“This approach should also help to solve the problem of lack of

sustainable water sources, especially in the water-stressed

areas of Ibanda,” he added.

He, however, noted that the lack of sustainable sources of water for production was a big challenge faced by farmers

in the district.

How to join the programme

A farmer must be willing to embrace agribusiness and modern farming practices. Also, one has to be willing to engage in high-value crops like coffee and horticulture crops.

You should also be ready to cost-share in regard to buying the irrigation equipment. Access to a permanent source of water and having access to at least an acre of land for a year are the other requirements interested farmers

must meet.

This money is paid after receiving quotations from the suppliers before the equipment can be delivered and installed.

Beneficiary farmers get solar panels for solar systems, suction and delivery pipes, distribution systems, sprinklers, drip systems, hose pipes, generators (for diesel or petrol pumps) and rain gun (semi-movable sprinklers), where applicable.

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