Karamoja — District leaders in Karamoja Sub-region have asked the government to substitute the construction of small valley tanks at parish level with multipurpose dams.
The leaders say the available valley tanks at parish level cannot keep water beyond a month hence leaving the farmers in difficult situations especially during dry seasons.
Speaking in Moroto Town during a recent consultative meeting with a team of experts from the Office of the Prime Minister, the leaders said the experience with the multipurpose dams in the area give them hope that if all districts are covered, Karamoja would become productive.
The Kotido District chairperson, Mr Ambrose Tukei, said government through the Ministry of Water and Environment is wasting a lot of money in constructing five valley tanks at parish level every financial year but there have been no positive results.
Mr Tukei said money between Shs400m and Shs500m is spent on construction of each valley tank but it cannot keep water for a long time something that is unheard of with the multipurpose dams.
"Constructing a multipurpose dam costs government between Shs5 billion and Shs7 billion and the water will be kept throughout the year. So stop wasting money on these five valley tanks per parish and instead use it to construct a big multipurpose dam," he said.
The government has so far constructed 81 valley tanks across the seven districts of Karamoja in the past two years with an objective of promoting irrigation to ensure sustainable food production in the region.
However, the valley tanks are said to easily dry up in the dry season. Each tank has a water capacity of 10,000 cubic litres which is far below the more than 2 billion litres kept by one multipurpose dam.
Karamoja Region, in north-eastern Uganda, is now administratively divided into seven districts: Kaabong, Abim, Kotido, Moroto, Amudat, Napak and Nakapiripirit.
The Amudat District chairman, Mr Francis Kiyonga, said the only way government can ensure food production and a prosperous animal husbandry in Karamoja Sub-region is to construct more of the multipurpose dams to deal with the dry spells in the region.
"Yes these valley tanks would be good if they were keeping water for the whole year without drying because our problem is how to make water available for the livestock," he said.
The whole sub-region has two multipurpose dams and the farmers have been giving testimonies of successful supply of water for production and livestock. One is at Arecek in Napak District while the other is at Kobebe in Moroto District.
Government spent Shs7 billion on the construction of a 2.3 billion litre dam at Arecek while the one at Kobebe cost Shs6 billion and has a capacity of 2.2 billion litres.
The leaders said these dams have never dried up since their construction four years ago.
However, Mr Patrick Oketel, a senior water engineer in charge of eastern region, said the valley tanks are cheaper to construct and can easily be accessed by the farmers compared to the multipurpose dams that require moving long distances.
Mr Oketel also attributed the problem of valley tanks drying up to poor maintenance and a negative attitude.
He said some locals drive animals to drink from the middle of the water which causes a lot of silting.
"The issue of multipurpose dams is long term planning which requires a lot of money. But if used well, the valley tanks are sustainable," Mr Oketel said.