Katakwi residents shun drip irrigation

President Museveni demonstrating drip irrigation at the Kityerela Presidential Demo Farm, Mayuge.
President Museveni demonstrating drip irrigation at the Kityerela Presidential Demo Farm, Mayuge. Courtesy Photo.

Katakwi farmers have shunned drip irrigation, a controlled form of irrigation through which bottles are used to trickle water and fertilizer slowly to the roots of a plant over a long period of time.

The technology has been in the recent past promoted by President Yoweri Museveni through experiments on his model farms in Kawumu, Luweero district and another in Kityerera Sub County, Mayuge district. The president reiterates that the motive is to teach Ugandans to use simple, affordable and accessible technologies to irrigate their gardens even during prolonged droughts.

Under the technology, water flows under low pressure through plastic bottles and tubes tied along the plants. Agriculturalists say that the system reduces water loss by up to 60 percent.

But farmers in Katakwi district, eastern Uganda say that the system is tiring. Julius Odimoi, a farmer in Katakwi Sub County says the technology is only applicable to small scale farmers. He cited long distances from water sources as a key obstacle to the approach.

Odimoi wants government to provide mechanized irrigation systems that can pump and supply water over large areas saying the bottle drip system is rudimentary and not applicable to traditional farming system of planting beans, maize and other crops.

Katakwi district Chairman Walter Elakas Ekiring says less than five farmers across the district are practicing the latest approach to combat drought.

Ekiring confirmed the district has continued to receive inadequate rain and is worried about the yield this first season. Michael Ateria, one of the area residents asked government to provide effective irrigation schemes to boost agricultural production in the area.

Katakwi district Member of Parliament Viola Akurut says they are currently pushing government to consider providing irrigation systems to farmers. She wants government to provide mechanized irrigation systems to support the production of agriculture.

Drip irrigation has however been embraced by farmers growing citrus, pineapple, and mangoes among others. Bosco Okurut, 39 a resident of Ngariam Sub County uses water bottles to water his two acres of citrus using drip irrigation. Okurut refills each bottle tied on a tree after every five days depending on the season.

Government has set aside 90.8 billion Shillings to facilitate irrigation programmes in the country in the financial year 2017-2018. Out of this, at least 23.3 billion Shillings is set aside for construction of valley tanks in sub-regions under the agriculture ministry while 67.4 billion Shillings is allocated under the Water ministry to construct a number of irrigation schemes.

They include Kabale micro-irrigation model, Rwengaju Irrigation scheme in Kabarole, Olweny irrigation scheme in Lira and 14 windmill-powered water systems in Karamoja sub-region and others.