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Farmers to get subsidized irrigation equipment

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Farmers to get subsidized irrigation equipment

irrigation

The World Bank has approved a US$300m project to Uganda to support smallholder farmers, local government workers and engineers to bring irrigation to farms as a way of copping with climate change.

The world bank says that US$240m of this funding is a loan while the remaining US$60m is a grant.

Baptised as the Micro-Scale Irrigation Program in Uganda, the project will help farmers buy irrigation equipment at a lower cost, teach them how to use the irrigation equipment and when and how to water their crops.

The World Bank says that up to 8,000 smallholder farmers in 40 districts will access matching grants to purchase and use micro-irrigation equipment, contributing to raising incomes and food security in rural areas through improved agricultural productivity and improving climate resilience of the poor and vulnerable farming communities.

The project, based in the Ministry of Agriculture, will be implemented in 40 districts across Uganda.

The Micro-scale Irrigation Program is part of the Uganda Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfers Program for Results (UgIFT) that seeks to improve service delivery by local governments in education, health, water and environment, and micro irrigation, including in areas hosting large populations of refugees.

Because of COVID-19 that forced the reduction in face to face interactions, farmers will be trained on how to use the irrigation equipment using the internet as well as through visits to their farms.

The support to smallholder farmers is a timely intervention following a warning by the Minister of Agriculture Vincent Ssempijja this week, that Uganda is headed towards a prolonged dry spell that is associated with loss of yields due to water scarcity.

Agriculture is the lifeblood of Uganda’s economy. It employs 70% of the population and contributes a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). But while Uganda possesses abundant freshwater resources, a lack of water infrastructure and increasingly erratic rainfall due to climate change are just two of the challenges faced by its farmers.

“Increasing uncertainties in rainfall and the long, prolonged drought has led to high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in our communities,” explains Alex Kisadha, Senior Agricultural Engineer in the Luuka District in Eastern Uganda.

Increased occurrence of droughts and floods due to climate Change have been linked with increasing poverty, malnutrition, and environmental degradation in poor countries like Uganda.

Because of climate change and the desire to help majority of Ugandan farmers climb the ladder out of poverty the government of Uganda has plans to expand irrigation to cover 1.5 million hectares of land in the next two decades.

The Micro-scale Irrigation Program is led by the Department of Agricultural Infrastructure Mechanization and Water for Agricultural Production of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries (MAAIF). Photo credit: MAAIF
The program helps break down two of the biggest barriers to small-scale irrigation.

The first is financing.
Although investing in micro-scale irrigation may yield benefits for farmers in the medium and long-term, farmers may require financial support in the short-term. Government subsidies reduce the cost of equipment and help farmers take the first steps toward growing more, diversifying their crops and selling their products. The government pays between 25% and 75% of farmers’ irrigation equipment, with the farmer paying the remaining portion. This could include a pump to take water from a nearby stream or a hose to distribute the water in the plot. The Program is expected to benefit mainly smallholder farmers, as support is capped to one hectare per farmer.

The second is knowledge.
The program funds awareness-raising activities that help farmers understand how irrigation can improve productivity and help them earn a decent income. Once they receive new equipment, farmers will be trained on how to use and maintain the irrigation equipment as well as when and how to water their crops.

How it will work
Farmers will work closely with local institutions, harnessing their context-specific expertise. This decentralized approach is particularly important as it allows for consistent in-person dialogue which is not possible without locally-based staff. Farmers will benefit from visits from district officials who can help explain the options available to them and advise on the most appropriate irrigation technology for the local conditions and needs. These could include solar pumps, sprinklers and drip systems, and soil, water and nutrient monitoring tools. Farmer field schools will be established and organized by local bodies.

Eng. Ronald Kato Kayizzi, Acting Commissioner for the Department of Agricultural Infrastructure Mechanization and Water for Agricultural Production of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, says such local leadership is an essential component of the Micro-scale Irrigation Program: “There is on-going support to District Local Governments to recruit and skill Agricultural Engineers to improve service delivery as well as building the smallholder farmers’ resilience and capacity to cope with environmental shocks. The Agricultural Engineers being part of the core frontline extension staff plays a critical role in bridging the gaps between the core extension services staff and farmers, in addition to improving the technical assistance linkages needed between the equipment suppliers, other private sector actors and farmers. “

Because one-third of households in Uganda are female-headed, women are specifically targeted and engaged in all elements of capacity-building and training, and special considerations are made to ensure they play a central role.

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