I am in the process of setting up a drip irrigation system on an acre of land. How much water do I need per day for the vegetables? Beatrice Sentamu, Wakiso
Answer: It is good that you have realised the advantages of using irrigation for agriculture. The main advantage is that you will be able to produce food all year round, hence earn more money.
Although Uganda still receives stable rains, there are several months of the year when there is no rain at all. This is why Ugandans should adopt irrigation as a way of growing food even off season.
There is also a notion that irrigation is expensive. But this is wrong if you weigh it against the benefits. For example, to acquire a drip irrigation kit for a quarter of an acre, one may need sh2-3m while for an acre one needs at least sh8 to10m.
However, this system will last over 10 years on the farm. In fact, on the farm, it is called a capital investment. If you grow for examples hot pepper using the irrigation system, the cost is recovered in just one year.
An acre of hot pepper can give you a gross of around sh25m a season. This means that for the rest of the years, you are enjoying the profits. There is also a fear about the cost of water for the system. However, this is also unfounded.
For an acre of land, you need two cubic units of water per irrigation cycle. Two cubic units are equivalent to at least 80, 20 litre jerrycans of water since each cubic unit has 40 jerrycans. Each cubic unit costs sh2,600, which means that you need sh5,200 every irrigation cycle.
You need two irrigation cycles every week during extreme dry months which means that you spend sh10,400 on water weekly or sh41,600 monthly.
Most vegetables are irrigated for four months which means that you spend sh166,400 for the entire season. That is certainly pea nuts compared to harvest.