8 June 2017

Uganda: Museveni Drip Irrigation Poses Environmental Concerns - Activist

Photo: The Observer
President Museveni demonstrates how to use mineral water bottles for irrigation at one of his farms.

A human rights activist, also environmentalist, Ben Kiromba Twinomugisha has criticized President Museveni for promoting the use of mineral water bottles for crop irrigation.

Twinomugisha says the president's method of irrigation is bound to create a catastrophic environmental issue in the future. President Museveni has in the recent past promoted the irrigation method through 'experiments' on his model farms in Kawumu, Luweero district and another in Kityerera sub-county, Mayuge district.

Museveni has often said that this type of irrigation is to encourage Ugandans to use simple, affordable and accessible technologies to irrigate their gardens even during prolonged droughts to ensure sustainable food supply.

Under this irrigation method, water flows under low pressure through plastic bottles and tubes tied along the plants. Agriculturalists say that the system reduces water loss by up to 60 percent.

But Prof Twinomugisha says that the water bottle type of irrigation is not only old-fashioned but could also have far-reaching environmental impacts if widely promoted. He fears that the bottles that are non-biodegradable are likely to negatively affect the soils because of poor disposals.

"The president's method of using mineral water bottles for irrigation is not only a fake but laughable", he said.

"One; it doesn't take into account the time a person takes to fetch that amount of water that can be used for irrigation purposes. Take an example of someone fetching water five kilometres away, how many jerricans of water will that woman fetch to put in the bottles.

Secondly, there is a serious environmental degradation issue. When you introduce that rudimentary way of irrigation, how are you going to dispose of the bottles which are known to be biodegradable. They are going to suppress the soil because people are to dispose them, you don't have a proper disposal system and they are negatively going to affect the environment.

And thirdly, in this century where we host Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, Lake Edward, Lake George, River Nile, Lake Kyoga and we have underground water resources, we are thinking of irrigation that, to me it is not sustainable", he said.

Twinomugisha who is also a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Environmental law Academy, says government should instead provide more money to the ministry of Water and the Ministry of Agriculture to extend water closer to communities and also provide access to modern irrigation technologies.

Studies have shown that drip irrigation using pipes laid across the gardens is the most efficient method of irrigating. While sprinkler systems are around 75-85 percent efficient, drip systems are said to be 90 percent or higher because they also use less water.

Drip irrigation (sometimes called trickle irrigation) works by applying water slowly, directly to the soil. The high efficiency of drip irrigation results from two primary factors.

The first is that the water soaks into the soil before it can evaporate or run off. The second is that the water is only applied where it is needed, rather than sprayed everywhere.


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