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Home Agribusiness The A-Z About Irrigation: Part 1

The A-Z About Irrigation: Part 1

by Joshua Kato
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Rony Oved is an Israeli irrigation investor working in Uganda. Please explain why Uganda has not successfully managed to take up the irrigation solution?

Water is life; it is obviously a key component of welfare in communities’ development. Lately, we are waking up from ignorance of the fact that today farming and agriculture in general cannot rely on rain, while production of food is needed in increased demand.

In my country Israel, a small semi-arid country, we have never had the luxury of taking water for granted. Under the pressure of limited rainfall and few water resources with a rapidly growing population, the country’s water management and technology has become among the most efficient and cost effective in the world. In Israel every farm even in the corner of up country gets water from the national water company, clean source of purified recycled water that is supplied to the farmers to easily apply irrigation in the farm. From vegetables to banana, potato, avocado, orange, mango orchards you name it, all grow under irrigation. No other way can be considered. 

For us in Uganda, it is important first to define the terminology of the water chain processes. Let us differentiate between two main elements in the water and irrigation chain.

Water management is usually a subject handled under the water ministry, where its main role is to avail water for general community development, deliver water to villages or develop water sources of nearby communities. This can be done via boreholes, rain conservation to dams, open reservoirs or recycling water and then pumping it to the communities farming areas. 

So when the government builds a dam it is water management (availing water to an area), but it is not an irrigation project as they call it?

Irrigation is usually a subject promoted by the agriculture ministry as a way of bringing controlled amounts of water to the farm at regular intervals for agricultural use. Assisting in growing crops in general, the goal is to supply the entire field uniformly with water, so that each plant has the amount of water it needs; by the way as you know Joshua, every plant needs different amount of water per day. Our experience shows that a one-acre of vegetable garden needs a minimum of 3,000 litres per day, while one banana plant needs minimum of 2.5 litres of water per a day.

The irrigation solution is a form of a “replacement or supplementation of rainwater to the direct to the plant” with different source of water. The main idea behind irrigation on systems is that your plants are maintained with the minimum to optimum amount of water required. An irrigation system should help conserve water, while saving farmers time, money, preventing weed growth and increasing the growth rate.

Water for Irrigation can come from the ground (extracted from springs or by using wells), from the surface water (withdrawn from rivers, lakes or reservoirs) or from non-conventional sources like treated waste water, desalinated water or drainage water. In all the above cases, water needs to be gathered to main reservoir and from there to the plants.

After appreciating the two different roles of the ministries, we can move to understand the different irrigation solutions we can find and in what crop it can be used. But let us not forget a very important point which our Ugandan clients do not take into consideration: What quantity of water you have available in units?

Every farmer needs to investigate and get the quantity of water they can harvest every day; this important point will determine how many acres they can grow. Various types of irrigation techniques are available; farmers should choose the right solution. In order to obtain the right irrigation system, let us paint a clear picture in the farmer’s mind and remember, irrigation is a way to distribute water within the field to the crop.

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