In the recent past, Uganda has experienced climate change and variability which impelled the government to support farmers with small-scale on-farm demonstrations for solar-powered irrigation systems.
Historically, the government has been more engaged in promoting large-scale irrigation for commercial farmers due to a limited understanding of the business case for small-scale irrigation.
As such, it is vital to provide information to the government and development partners on the state of the market, existing challenges, and potential interventions to scale the market sustainably.
The government of Uganda through the ministry of water and environment will commission a mega solar-powered irrigation system constructed by Nexus Green Limited.
Residents of Ntanzi Parish, Ntenjeru Sub County in Mukono district are the first beneficiaries in their district of such one of the 687 solar Powered Irrigation and Water Supply Systems across the country by the Ugandan government utilising financing from the UK Export Finance over a three-year period.
The system to be launched on Friday, October 8, comprises a water source, transmission pipeline, pumping to storage tanks with solar energy, distribution networks, and for irrigation systems, and on-farm irrigation system network.
The project envisages benefitting the youth and women majorly as they are the groups usually tasked with fetching water and will empower them economically through increased production from irrigated growth of high-value crops. Additionally, the project will create more jobs in the agricultural sector as a result of accessibility to water for irrigation.
The irrigation system, which uses energy from the sun and therefore eliminates farmers’ challenges with access to reliable electricity or fossil fuels, has the capacity to irrigate up to 10 acres of land and pump larger volumes of water on hot days when the crops and animals need water the most.
The system will reduce energy costs for irrigation and this improves many farmers’ access to water and can have knock-on effects on agricultural productivity and incomes.
According to Jude Wegoya of Nexus Green Ltd, the solar system is a great fit with irrigation because on sunny days when plants need water most, the solar-powered irrigation systems provide the required volumes to match the crop requirements
He said that the project envisages benefitting the youth and women majorly as they are the groups usually tasked with fetching water.
He added the project will empower such categories economically through increased production from irrigated growth of high-value crops. Additionally, he added, the project will create more jobs in the agricultural sector as a result of accessibility to water for irrigation.
The scheme designs
NGL designed a solar-powered system to evacuate water from the existing borehole to a reservoir, from where the water flows by gravity to the command area and a designated domestic water supply point.
The irrigation system is designed to use the available water as eﬃciently as possible by minimizing the conveyance, distribution, and application losses. The system comprises a solar-powered pump with a duty point of 10m3/hr at 150m, 592 meters of transmission pipeline, 87m3 cold-pressed steel tank supported on dwarf walls, and a distribution system of approximately 4,000 meters.
If the beneficiaries adhere to the recommended agronomic practices and with appropriate training, the irrigation system will enable the beneficiaries to grow high-value crops like horticultural crops for commercial purposes all year round and improve their household income as compared to the scenario with dependency on rain-fed agriculture.
Steven Senkungu and Joy Karuhanga are currently growing crops for domestic consumption while Gladys Kisekka and Godfrey Sewankambo are practicing commercial agriculture at a limited scale, turning over a total of Ug Shs 14,200,000 annually
Irrigation will enable some of the beneficiaries like Godfrey Sewankambo and Joy Karuhanga who have perennial crops, i.e., coﬀee, banana, and orchards, to get a higher yield and harvest throughout the year and this will improve their income. The total projected income for these beneficiaries is estimated at approximately Ug Shs 500,000,000.
Additionally, manual laborers in the surrounding community will have work all year round as compared to the availability of work only twice a year with rain-fed agriculture. On the same site, a domestic water provision for a current population of 59 users is included.
The project is estimated to cost a net sum of €179,257.80, which translates to a gross sum of € 222,100.75 (inclusive of a 5% contingency and 18% VAT).
Return on Investment
Based on the projected annual income arising out of irrigation at UGX 500,000,000, the estimated return on investment is 66.5%, or estimated at 1.5 years.