Government has handed over a multi-billion irrigation scheme to farmers in Lira District.
The Shs47b Olweny Irrigation Scheme was on Tuesday handed over to more than 15,00 beneficiary farm families in the three sub-counties of Barr, Agali and Itek.
The project was initiated in the early 1940s but failed to take off due to inadequate funding from the government.
The scheme meant for rice growing covers about 600 hectares in the western part of the lower Olweny Swamp, bisected from east to west by the Soroti – Agwata – Lira highway.
Mr Pius Wakabi Kasajja, the permanent secretary of Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, while commissioning the scheme on Tuesday urged the beneficiaries to vote wisely.
“In a few days, we are going to the ballot, vote wisely, and avoid violence,” he said.
Mr Kasajja had represented the Agriculture minister, Mr Vincent Ssempijja, at the function.
“Everyone has a right to elect a leader of their choice without fear or any intimidation. We don’t want to see blood because of the election, we have life tomorrow. Please speak to those ones intending to create havoc not to,” he added.
Mr Alfred Okot Okidi, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Water and Environment, said in order to make farmers resilient to climate change, the government needs to invest more in irrigation.
“At the moment, we are doing the irrigation masterplan and we are looking at where we can put the various facilities for irrigation across the entire country. We are doing that jointly with Ministry of Agriculture,” he said.
Mr Okot urged the people of Lango to take advantage of the Tochi Irrigation Scheme in Oyam District and the Olweny scheme to better their lives.
“We have equipment, you simply need to get some little money for fuel and pay a small allowance for the operators. They can dig for you a dam which you can use for your animals and also irrigation,” he said.
He added: “Experience shows that when you have this storage facility at hand, your productivity goes up between five to six times because you are able to produce throughout the year. This therefore actually pushes us to lower middle income within just two seasons.”
Mr Morris Engin, the chairperson of Itek-Okile Rice Growers and Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society, thanked the government for the intervention saying that after rehabilitation of the scheme, productivity and yields have increased immensely.
Mr Engin said his members have realised 70,000kg of rice in the first season alone. Whereas the beneficiary farmers are celebrating bumper harvest, Eng Dr Charles Wana-Etyem, the consulting engineer, revealed that the scheme is already faced with challenges.
“The scheme was meant for rice growing but the farmers are now trying to diversify, so it is going to introduce the problem of rescheduling of the irrigation,” he explained.
He warned that if the six remaining dams are not rehabilitated, farmers will not get optimum yield from the scheme because floods will disrupting them.
“The dams have created huge water reservoirs and the community cannot resist going into fishing. But fishing which is unregulated is creating problems: children have died, we have lost lives in those schemes,” he said.
But Mr Wakabi downplayed the concerns saying: “The issues that we are having I would say are good problems because we are going to get very good solutions. .”