Why we must handle water with care
What you need to know:
- The oil that we are expecting should be the commodity to change Uganda from a rain dependent agricultural economy to a country whose farmers have easy access to irrigation using water from rivers, streams, ground water, and rainwater harvesting
If your columnist were asked what Uganda should do with the money earned from the expected oil mining in western Uganda, his immediate answer would be that it should all be invested in constructing water channelling infrastructure, water storage, and water lifting equipment to ensure that all the water in our swamps, rivers, and lakes is well managed and evenly distributed for the development of the country’s agriculture.
The oil that we are expecting should be the commodity to change Uganda from a rain dependent agricultural economy to a country whose farmers have easy access to irrigation using water from rivers, streams, ground water, and rainwater harvesting.
We should be able to drive water from regions where we have it in abundance to districts where it is not available in sufficient amounts.
We must begin to think about water for agriculture as even more important, to our economy, than oil. We will still need it after our oil wells dry up.
Good water management is especially important given that climate change is now a reality.
It is about prolonged drought, floods, unpredictable rainfall patterns and incurable crop diseases.
Think of areas in Uganda that routinely experience long droughts and where farmers lose their herds and crops due to water shortage.
Yet we have hundreds of swamps, rivers, and streams in other areas of the same country where water keeps flowing into lakes and even out of the country (through the Nile).
Other countries, because of good management, use the water of the Nile more sustainably and have higher agricultural production than we do. For example, Egypt is said to produce more fish than Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania put together.
Milk, meat, crop, and poultry production are quite attractive investments that thousands of smallholders are encouraged to engage in to reduce poverty but they cannot be successfully carried out without sufficient water.
We are trapped in a farming system that is largely based on availability of rain and the dictates of climate change yet with more sustainable water management and improved technologies we could mitigate the threats of climate change and turn into a prosperous agricultural country.