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Prospects for agricultural water management

Uganda is endowed with abundant water resources, however due to the very high population growth, the total renewable water resources of the country are expected to drop by 2030 to 948 m3/year per capita (based on UNDESA population prospects 2012), almost corresponding to the water scarcity threshold. At the same time, the total demand for water for production is projected to rise to 994 million m3 in 2015, 1 266 million m3 in 2020 and 2 113 m3 in 2035 (MWE, 2009).

With regards to irrigation development, the government, under the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy & Investment Plan (MAAIF, 2010) and the National Development Plan (Republic of Uganda, 2010), is to reduce the dependency on rainfed agriculture through the:

  • Establishment of four new medium-size irrigation schemes each with 2 000 ha for promotion of irrigation;
  • Completion of the rehabilitation of Olweny swamp, the last of five planned to be rehabilitated (Mobuku, Doho, Kibimba, Agoro);
  • Transfer of management of public irrigation schemes to the lowest appropriate level once they are reorganized in order to ensure the sustainability of the schemes;
  • Establishment of thirteen irrigation research and development sites;
  • Building of a monitoring framework for the supply, utilisation and management of water for crops;
  • Scaling up of conservation agriculture;
  • Promotion of small-scale irrigation practices;
  • Promotion of appropriate technology for household-level irrigation;
  • Strengthening of public-private partnership in construction and maintenance of irrigation schemes;
  • Provision of backup support including promotional activities, guidelines, regulations, standards designs and manuals, and technical assistance.

The overall objective is to increase the area under irrigation from 15 538 in 2010 to 22 000 ha in 2015. To reach this objective, an inventory of the existing water sources was made, identifying the potential for irrigation, livestock watering and aquaculture at specific project sites within the country. In particular, this feasibility study examined the interest of rehabilitating five additional governmental schemes—Kiige, Odina, Labori, Atera, Ongom—, as well as establishing six new irrigation schemes—Katete, Katerera, Igogero-Naigombwa, Rhino Camp, Labwor, and Biiso—and new infrastructures to store water for livestock (MAAIF, 2013).

In the longer term, the National Irrigation Master plan (MAAIF, 2010) defined, after a first stage of studies, three additional stages for the development of irrigation:

  • 2014-2018: reinvigoration of the sector with efforts of physical investments, supported by a wide range of institutional capacity building, and possible restructuring.
  • 2019-2023: spatial and market expansion with i) physical investments with attention to bulk service infrastructure and ii) institutional adaptation to new challenges, including efficient allocation of scarce water; service tariff recovery and possible public/private partnerships in both service delivery and production.
  • 2024-2035: commercialisation of the sector and integration with global markets: physical investment will continue nonetheless, while institutional measures will be focussed at ever improving service delivery and possibly, water markets.

Regarding water management, the National Irrigation Master plan advocates three measures: i) a meaningful water allocation mechanism, taking into consideration both economic efficiency at sectorial level and physical water efficiency at scheme level; ii) the economic pricing of water; and iii) conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water (MAAIF, 2010).


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