• Authored By: Alon Mwesigwa
29 Mar 2023

With Uganda’s public debt estimated to reach 53% of GDP in 2023, Economic Policy Research Centre, with support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), is assessing the impact of debt policies and COVID-19 shocks on households and firms in a constrained resource and institutional environment. This includes visiting several projects implemented using public debt and carrying out in-depth interviews with community beneficiaries.

One of the projects is the Mubuku II Irrigation scheme in Kasese district, western Uganda. Despite inevitable challenges, the project, funded with a loan from the African Development Bank, puts a smile on smallholder farmers’ faces. Our pictorial by the EPRC Information Management Department:

Mubuku II Irrigation Scheme channel taking water to farmers’ gardens.

Hundreds of smallholder farmers now depend on Mubuku II irrigation scheme. The water is released in turns, on known days for each side of the scheme. An operator is at hand to open the control areas for water to flow to the desired area.


A tunnel opened to all water move to farmers’ fields

Farmers say they are now able to grow crops throughout the year without having to wait for the rain or follow traditional seasonal farming patterns.


At the height of drought in January and February, farmers served by Mubuku II scheme saw their fields stay healthy.

This has inevitably improved the farmers’ earnings. “We’re able to pay our children’s school fees and keep some money for our children,” one said in a meeting with EPRC team.

With access to irrigation water, harvest is usually impressive. These tomatoes loaded onto trucks for markets in Kasese town, DRC, and Kampala.

Smallholder farmers not only hold a key to household income transformation but also ensure the country is food secure. However, majority still depend on rainwater for production. An EPRC study found that 40% of crop and 40% of animal production is lost due to lack of irrigation facilities around the country. This makes Mubuku II an all-important facility if managed well.

Farmers’ delight. A farmer picks ready cabbage for sale. Production is on throughout the year, thanks to Mubuku II irrigation.

There are challenges, though. Farmers say they are required to pay 180,000 Uganda shillings annually to farm in the irrigation area. This is high fee and eats into their earnings. They also said the seeds market is filled with fakes, leading to high crop failure even when they have water for irrigation.

Fake seeds on the market means farmers still face unacceptable crop failure even when they have irrigation systems.




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