Co-operators appeal for legal framework to promote water for production

Members of Miromi Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Agali Sub County, Lira district, have appealed to the government to come up with a strong legal framework to facilitate farmers’ access to water for agricultural production.

A study report produced by the Uganda Farmers’ Common Voice platform indicates that although Uganda is endowed with water resources, most farmers in the country rely on rain-fed agriculture, mainly due to limited access to irrigation-based water sources.

The study, which was conducted by Prof. Moses Tenywa of Makerere University, blames the limited access to water for production on an inadequate legal framework for the sector.

Nixson Ogwang, the Chairman, Miromi Farmers’ Cooperative Society, seconded this finding, saying that the government needs to come up with a policy on the water for production.

“This would encourage the participation of the private sector in solving some of the challenges hindering small scale farmers to access water for production in the country,” he argued.

Irrigation to boost production

Established in 2016, Miromi Farmers’ Cooperative Society cooperative deals in onion and tomato production in the dry season. Members believe an irrigation system would enable them to produce food all year round and increase sales.

Ogwang appealed for the government’s support in acquiring the requisite technology through the Microfinance Support Centre.

“The current technologies on the markets are very expensive to ordinary farmers like us, but through Private-Public Partnership, the government can subsidize the costs and attract the private sector to avail the technologies to farmers at cheaper prices,” he observed.

Donald Denis Opio, the Chairperson of Can-Onoto-Waa Youth Farmers’ group, which is also under the same Cooperative, says they earn about Shs 20m per acre of tomatoes sold during the dry season.

“Part of the money got from the project is shared among the individual youths who are engaged in tomato farming,” he revealed.

The group has great ambitions. According to Ellen Akello, also a farmer, they are now targeting producing tomato and onion on a large scale for export.

“An irrigation system would help us achieve this aim, create employment for ourselves through farming and boost household income,” she said.

In an interview with thecooperator, Erute South MP, Jonathan Odur, commended the members of the cooperative for engaging in farming during this dry season and pledged to follow up with the government about their appeal.

“As leaders we shall ensure that money is available in the subsequent financial years to support farmers to access water for production. Without fighting for the farmers, Uganda will be food insecure since rain-fed agriculture cannot sustain food production in the country,” he said.

Uganda has enormous fresh water endowments covering about 15% of its total area. However, only 2% of the water is utilized for production with 1% used in irrigation compared to the 70% of water used for irrigation worldwide.

Experts say that low utilization of water for production has contributed to a decline in agricultural productivity, mostly for small holder farmers who dominate the agricultural sector in Uganda and mainly depend on rain-fed agriculture.

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Lango Cooperative Union in battle to recover lost assets

The leadership of Lango Cooperative Union is struggling to repossess its prime assets that were lost to private individuals.

Formed in 1952 to promote cotton growing in the greater Lango sub-region, it collapsed in the 1980s due to fluctuation of cotton prices and defaulting on loans taken from microfinance institutions by the Union’s then Board of directors

The government, a few years ago, offered to compensate the Union for the losses, and records at the Ministry of Finance indicate that at the beginning of this financial year, the government paid out Shs 2 bn under Lango War Claimants, out of a total debt of Shs 17 bn it owes the union.

However, Maxwell Akora, the Lango Cooperative Union Vice Chairperson, who doubles as Maruzi County MP, says that while the Union needs to recover all its assets in order to expand its projects, some people occupying the properties are reluctant to return them to the Union.

“We have secured our land assets located in Angayiki Village in Chawente Sub County, Kwania. The land, measuring about 1,165 hectares, is equivalent to 9 square kilometers. It had been previously claimed by the Microfinance Support Centre for sale to recover a debt of Shs 1.46 billion,” he said, adding:

“We have now found means of settling that debt and so we have secured the land. We are waiting to take possession from the court bailiff who has been evicting people from the land,” he said.

Some of the Union’s properties still in private hands include three separate pieces of land and one big plot under rehabilitation, an Administration block, and stores at plot 16, Station road in Lira City, among others.

Akora says while some of these assets were sold off by commercial banks that had attached them as after the Union failed to pay back loans, some were taken over by unscrupulous people occupying them as encroachers.

According to Akora, the Union is in the process of reassembling its maize and soya bean processing plants and factories, which would require it to own sufficient land, preferably in locations they formerly occupied.

Agnes Abote, a member of Akia Primary Society is happy with the move to repossess the Union’s assets and hopes it can help settle the rampant cases of land conflicts involving different primary societies.

“The Union’s leadership should be transparent and accountable. The Union’s record ended on a twist, but now that it has started recovering its assets, I believe this will benefit the primary societies as well as the farmers at the grassroots,” Abote said in an interview.

Tom Odoc, a farmer and resident of Acaba Sub County in Oyam district, advised the Union leadership to sell or lease out its land to investors as a potential source of revenue.

“The Angayiki land had been redundant for too long,” he argued. “The Union’s leadership should auction the land to an investor in order to get the money that may be divided to the different primary societies, facilitate the Union’s activities, or be loaned out to farmers.”

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