[ACCI-CAVIE] Government’s countrywide project to design, supply and install solar-powered water supply and irrigation systems is gaining steam; and when completed, the 400 solar-powered irrigation sites will benefit at least 3,000 smallholder farmers while 5,000 people in rural areas will get access to clean drinking and cooking water.
Meanwhile, an estimated 15,000 people will gain access to urban water supply systems, write ERNEST JJINGO. Gladys Kisekka Ndagire, a vegetable farmer in Mpumu village, Mukono district, is one of the beneficiaries of the solar-powered water irrigation systems the government, through Nexus Green Limited, is setting up in different parts of the country.
This is part of the project to design, supply and install of solar-powered water supply and irrigation systems and will see about 400 solar-powered irrigation sites constructed and completed by end of 2023.
Before this intervention, Ndagire and hundreds of other farmers in Mpumu were challenged by the unpredictable weather patterns which would adversely affect their farming activities. However, with the solar-powered irrigation system which has been installed on the 12-acre land piece, Ndagire and other farmers in the area can now grow crops throughout the year.
She said it is not easy for farmers these days because the dry season these days is too long and the rain season is too short. Last season, all the maize Ndagire had planted failed to yield because there wasn’t enough rain. So, she, together with five other farmers in the area, applied at their sub-county to have this irrigation system to enable them continue farming even in the dry season.
“Due to changes in climate patterns, it becomes difficult to assess when the planting or harvesting season will be. But with the irrigation idea, farmers have full control and can be able to plant anything from the start to the end of the year. I encourage fellow farmers to embrace irrigation and improve their yield outcome,” she said.
Similar projects which are also being implemented in other parts of the country are set to benefit at least 3,000 smallholder farmers. An average of six farmers on a 12-acre site will benefit from each solar-powered irrigation site and on the supply side, at least 5,000 people in rural areas will get access to clean drinking and cooking water while an average of 15,000 people will gain access to urban water supply systems.
The government contracted Nexus Green, an innovative international solar energy company that specializes in designing, supplying, manufacturing and delivering affordable solar-powered solutions that reduce carbon emissions and provide cheaper cleaner energy, to construct such irrigation sites in water-stressed districts of Uganda.
The company is expected to have completed all construction works of up to 687 solar-powered water irrigation sites in Uganda and hand over the project to the government by the end of 2024.
The governments of Uganda and the United Kingdom are jointly investing 111 million euros (Shs 436.5bn) in the solar-powered water supply and irrigation project to enhance agricultural productivity, prosperity and the social life of at least 2.6 million Ugandans in the water-stressed districts in the country.
The project is owned by the ministry of Water and Environment and financed by the ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. It was approved by the parliament of Uganda and the UK Export Finance (UKEF) in September 2019 and February 2021 respectively. The project commenced on July 26, 2021, with its first implementation sites being handed over to Nexus Green in August and September 2021.
The committee members on Environment and Natural Resources in the parliament of Uganda conducted an oversight visit to assess the project implementation by Nexus Green. The team visited over 10 districts in Eastern and Northern Uganda including; Nakasongola, Amolator, Lira, Apac, Serere, Soroti and Bukedea, among others.
While addressing the committee members at a stakeholder project update briefing in Jinja last week, Rikki Verma, the chief executive officer, Nexus Green Limited, noted that so far the company is concurrently working on approximately 400 sites which are all at different stages of design and construction.
“We spent the first six months of year one of the project on making site verification including confirming site locations and checking the availability of water; stakeholder consultations including harmonization of beneficiaries’ needs, acquisition of land for the project sites, undertaking detailed feasibility studies and designs and procurement of materials (panels, pumps, pipes, fittings) for the first phase,” Verma said, adding that for this second year, the focus is now on construction, starting with the approved batches of designed sites and by the end of this year, they will have built approximately 400 solar- powered water irrigation sites.
Commenting on the benefits of the project, Verma explained, “This project will increase the number of productive seasons from two to four seasons in a year. There will be knowledge transfer with the targeted farmers gaining agronomy skills on various high-value crops like passion fruits, tomatoes, apples, watermelon, rosemary bush, macadamia through services of an agronomist on the project including information on access to markets, competitive pricing and farm management skills.
Overall, having constantly powered irrigation systems will guarantee Shs 5m worth of revenue per acre, per season resulting in Shs 4.6 trillion which is over three per cent of the country’s GDP year in and year out.”
During the visit, Dr Emmanuel Otim Otala, the chairperson of the committee, said they were impressed with the investment put in by Nexus Green and called upon the government to ensure its counterpart funding is paid up to enable the contractor to finish their work in time.
He, however, expressed the need for this project to be scaled up to cover most parts of the country so as to improve the quality of life of Ugandans in rural areas through providing quality water for both human consumption and irrigation.
Agness Apea Imat Ocere, the Amolatar district Woman MP, observed that the project was of great importance to not only the people in Amolatar, one of the beneficiary districts, but also other parts of Uganda.
“This project is going to enable our farmers to grow high-value crops like vegetables including onions and tomatoes thereby enabling them to generate more income.”
Meanwhile, Verma also noted that after this project, urban dwellers in the target districts are expected to see a 60 per cent reduction in water tariff on 220 urban water supply schemes, in addition to the benefits of green energy and carbon footprint reduction.
“We expect at least 2.6 million people to see a reduction and prevention of common chronic sicknesses such as typhoid, dysentery and cholera generally leading to improved health and standard of living within the beneficiary communities.”
By Ernest Jjingo and LB