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Uganda Drip Irrigation Tech from Isreal
Rain falls on farms across Israel all the time, but it does not come from the sky. It is drip irrigation. Many years ago, the Israelis found themselves in the desert and yet they wanted to produce their own food all year round. To achieve this goal, they had to think outside the box.
They saw irrigation as the only way out. Today, Israel is the leading source of simple-touse, but effective irrigations systems across the world.
During the recently-concluded 18th Agritech Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, many of these irrigation systems were exhibited. Israel, although a desert, exports food, thanks to innovations like this.
It was not just drip irrigation that the Israelis discovered. They improved it to suit different settings, including farmers in developing countries like Uganda. One such example is the family drip irrigation system (FDIS), developed by the International Programme for Arid Land Crops at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in partnership with Israeli irrigation company Netafim.
FDIS is a simple irrigation technology, which is combined with gravity-powered low water pressure. In order to spread the technology, Israel is partnering with local government agencies and non-governmental organisations to introduce it in countries across Africa to smallholder farmers at a low cost.
These innovations are also empowering farmers in the dry Sahel region across sub- Saharan Africa to combat problems of water scarcity, and in countries like Uganda, there is growing belief that this is the way to go if famine is to be stemmed.
How it works
For the smaller family kit that caters for a small garden, the system includes a water container, which can be a big bucket. The bucket (of say 20litres) is hoisted on an upright pole and fitted with a pipe that runs through the vegetable garden.
The pipes should have tiny holes that are strategically placed near the stems of the crops to let out water. All that a farmer does is fill the water container with water and gravity will make it move down to the garden.
In Uganda, there are a few agri-business companies that are promoting a fairly larger family irrigation system. Among these are Agromax and Balton, plus individual farmers like Abbey Kazibwe of Nansana, a Kampala suburb. This caters for at least a quarter of an acre.
The basics include a water tank of about 200-300litres. It is then placed 1.5metres above the ground, a main water pipe is fitted on the tank, with valves to let out or stop the water, and feeder lines set within the rows of the vegetables.
A quarter of an acre can take as many as 6,700 cabbages or 10,000 tomatoes.
The cost ranges from sh2m to sh3m for outdoor vegetable farmers and sh7m for a fullyconstructed greenhouse farm.
According to Samuel Peled, an official with Agromax, the notion that Ugandan farmers do not need irrigation is not true.
“This system helps you produce all year round,” he says, adding that it enables the farmer to determine when to produce crops for better prices in the market.
Balton is promoting a greenhouse farmers’ kit, which is similar to the Israel system, to boost the growing of high quality tomatoes and other vegetables by Ugandans. According to Balton managing director Zeev Shiff, the kit is simple to use.
“Since most Ugandans depend on agriculture, the kit was developed to help them modernize their farming activities,” he said. According to Abbey Kazibwe, who practices greenhouse farming, Ugandans can adopt to change and think like the Israelis if they are sensitised.
“The climate is becoming less dependable and we must walk to the Ugandan farmer and tell him that we must change. Modern farming does not need a lot of space, but rather technology,” he says.
Kazibwe has organised a free exhibition for farmers mainly engaged in vegetable farming at his home in Nansana on June 8.
“I want to do my part by sharing with the Ugandan farmer what I know,” he says.
By Joshua Kato
The New Vision Newspaper
02 June 2012
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