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Uganda to be water stressed by 2025

Due to prolonged droughts and unexpected floods caused by climatic variations, Uganda may be water stressed by 2025, CARE Uganda has warned.

This was revealed during the second national stakeholders’ meeting organised by CARE Uganda and Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), under the auspices of Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWI EA) in Kampala recently. Speaking at the same event, Water and Environment Minister Ephraim Kamuntu said development of the agricultural sector had stagnated due to total dependence on rainfall which, of late, was becoming unreliable.

The meeting, whose theme was “Opportunities for investing in water- smart agriculture for smallholder farmers in Uganda,” provided a platform to reflect on public and private sector investments in efficient water use.

“Globally, water for [agriculture] productive use is estimated to account for 60 to 70 per cent of the total national water uses. However in Uganda, only two per cent of water is used for [agriculture] production, with only one per cent of potential irrigable area,” Kamuntu said.

Uganda is endowed with water resources, where 15 per cent of the surface area is open water, three per cent permanent wetlands and 9.4 per cent seasonal wetlands. There is high annual rainfall in much of the country, ranging from 600mm to 2500mm, although there is a noticeably drier ‘cattle corridor’. However, despite her endowed status, water resources are underutilised.

Kakuuto MP Mathias Kasamba cited an example of Akwera dam in Otuke district which cost government Shs 6.9 billion to construct in 2012 but has been idle since. He also questioned government’s plan to construct more dams in the area when the 16 existing had never been used. Instead, he advised that the existing dams be rehabilitated and systems put in place to channel the water to farmers’ fields.

Dr Alan Nicol, the programme director, GWI EA, said all Ugandans were connected to farmers.

“Food security is derived from their work. They are the engineers and drivers of development. We need to privilege and support them for that reason,” Nicol said.  “Water is a major constraint and will become more so. We are seeking to engage policymakers and leverage investments in order to assist farmers in achieving water security.”

The director of crop resources in the Agriculture ministry, Okasai Opolot, called for the establishment of a knowledge hub on irrigation.  Here, he said, stakeholders could access information on who the farmers are, what they need to address the farmers’ requirements and also find out their training and capacity-building needs.

The minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Tress Bucyanayandi, said given the increasing seasonal variability of rainfall, declining soil fertility and increasing population pressure on land and water resources, the meeting was timely.

“Through the national development plan, the Agriculture sector development strategy and investment plan and the recently-approved national agriculture policy, government is committed to provision of improved livelihoods of over 86 per cent of the population who live in the rural areas and depend on agriculture,” Bucyanayandi said.

At the end of the meeting, participants agreed to make water for agriculture a component of infrastructure planning so that it is prioritised, privileged in budgeting and implementation. Meanwhile, a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also warns of a lurking scarcity of water and food in Uganda and the rest of Africa.

The report titled Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Global Fifth Assessment report, released every five years, was launched at Hotel Africana on August 29.

Presiding at the launch, the Dutch ambassador in Uganda, Alphons Hennekens, said that during this century, temperature in the African continent was likely to rise quicker than in other land areas, particularly in more arid regions.

“These changes in climate will create new risks and will amplify existing risks for natural and human systems,” Hennekens said.

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