UGANDA: WOMEN AT ABERA IRRIGATION SCHEME DREAM BIG DESPITE WATER CRISIS.

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Mr. Watmon Richard (Paibona Sub County Chairman) monitoring the green house of Abera Irrigation Scheme.

 

“Our biggest challenge is that there is not enough water to irrigate our seedlings. Although they (management) ration water on rotational basis, the water is simply not enough. We are now forced to carry water from the river to help our seedlings”

 

“This project will not benefit us; the people it is meant to benefit. This water crisis could have been solved a long time ago if they were working as a team. We are not happy to see government resources going down the drains because of corruption”

 

GULU-UGANDA: It is 9.00 o’clock; local time in the morning (about 6.00 GMT) at Abera Irrigation Demonstration Scheme in Paibona Sub County in Gulu district, where a group of about ten beneficiaries are busy doing all kinds of work on their plots of land.

 

This is a 20-acre piece of land fenced off to avoid domestic animals from eating the few seedlings sprouting from a greenhouse.

 

There are various seedlings of horticultural crops like onions, tomatoes, cabbages and green peppers, ready for transplantations.

 

Outside the greenhouse, the twenty acres have been partitioned into plots which measure 40 by 50 meters each and given as demonstration plot to the local community of Paibona Ayweri village where the locals are learning Climate Smart Agriculture. Government wants them to be able to practice non rain fed agriculture using irrigation technology it is building in this place. But what lessons and challenges have women engaged in this project faced since starting work here?

 

Twenty year-old Ms. Aweko Prisca is busy marking holes where she would plant water melon seeds along a piece of sisal rope her husband, Mr. Orach Nelson (23) had tied to guide her work in a straight line. The young couple has a two-year old child who is not yet in school.

 

As she marks the holes, dust can be seen emanating from the holes, an indication that her plot has not tasted water in weeks, considering the dryness of the soil.

 

Her work reminds me of my geography lesson in ordinary level where the teacher taught about ‘dry farming’ practice in readiness of the onset of rainy season. 

 

“Our biggest challenge is that there is not enough water to irrigate our seedlings. Although they (management) ration water on rotational basis, the water is simply not enough. We are now forced to carry water from the river to help our seedlings survive the drought”, says Ms. Aweko.

 

She believes the problem could have been caused by the fact that the water pump, which pumps water to the plots, is now being powered by solar instead of the original generator.

 

In another plot, a group of three women; Ms. Sister Lamunu (a widow of 58 years), Ms. Ajok Mary (46) and Ms. Ladoo Christine (55) are busy covering their sprouting water melon seedlings from, scotching sun heat with dry grass.

 

According to the three, they have learnt a lot from the Extension workers at the site on how to make money through horticulture instead of planting traditional crops like groundnuts, sesame, cassava, maize or sorghum.

 

They started working together as a group more than ten years ago and even have a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) to support them pay their ten grandchildren stay in schools.

 

Their vision is to get away from grass-thatched houses, which are susceptible to fire outbreaks to corrugated iron sheet roofs, buy goats and cattle through planting horticultural crops like water melon.

 

According to Ms. Ajok, their spouses are supportive of the work they do because they have seen the benefits and would even join them in their work. She says they have learned new techniques of farming which they never practiced including fertilizer application, pest ad disease control, early planting and post-harvest management amongst others.

 

According to the agronomist teaching the beneficiaries, Mr. Oloya Godman, this is a long time project and the beneficiaries are expected to plant four cycles of crops in one year; each lasting three and half months.

 

“We are already in the second cycle of the project, the first being in July 2018. We have four cycles in a year of three and half months each. This is not a short term project, but a long term one”, says Mr. Oloya.

 

However, Mr. Lukwiya Caesar (63), the man who donated his land for the project, ‘sees no future’ in the project because those managing the UGX. 3,000,000,000 (US$843,000) project do not work as a team because some of them are corrupt.

 

“This project will not benefit us, the people it is meant to benefit. This water crisis could have been solved a long time ago if they were working as a team. We are not happy to see government resources going down the drains because of corruption”, says the old man.

 

The chairman of Paibona sub-county, Mr. Watmon Richard, equally agrees with elder Lukwiya; arguing that as a political head of the sub-county who is mandated to monitor government projects in his area, he has not seen project documents like the Bill of Quantity of Abera Irrigation Scheme.

 

“This project would have very big impact on our people because we want our people to adapt to new farming practices but because of corruption I think the project will have very limited impact at the end of its two-year lifespan”, says Mr. Watmon.

 

Brenda Akao, the Communications Officer Ministry of Water and Environment says the scheme is yet under construction and not yet handed out to the benefitting community. She urged the beneficiaries to be patient and wait until the scheme is fully completed for them to utilize it.

 

“We can sort out the issue of little water but we still want them to learn how lack of water affect the growth of crops as well as what happens when there is too much of it. The same applies to fertilizer” she stated without disclosing when the constriction will end.

 

So far, there are unspecified number of farmers benefitting from the Project. Akao says they will enroll more farmers from the area when the construction is completed.

 

According to Gulu district chairperson Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the project will train up to 500,000 farmers from the region from six farmer cooperatives.

 

 

 

 

 

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