Posts tagged ‘Uganda’

August 15, 2014

Uganda: Farmers Want To Turn To Irrigation As Drought Drags On

Chris Mugasha
August 15, 2014

Thousands of farmers in Uganda’s western district of Kasese want the government of Uganda to help them start irrigating their gardens following continued dry weather that is causing food shortage.

The district has up to 13 rivers. But farmers there have continued to lose their crops as a result of drought. Now the farmers believe that the solution is taking advantage of these rivers to irrigate their gardens.

One of the main rivers there is Nyamwamba which often bursts its banks causing mayhem in the district. In May 2013, River Nyamwamba burst its banks causing floods that left at least 10 people dead.

Several farmers in the district are now crying foul after the dry weather that started in March this year devastated their plantations.

Mubuku government prison farm is one of the worst affected. Farming efforts of inmates at this prison were wasted after their 300 acres of a maize plantation dried up.

“We were going to utilize all the rains because we planted in time but unfortunately we stopped receiving rains in March immediately after we had planted. We are expecting zero yields,” narrates the Officer in Charge of this prison Ronald Kalali.

People looking at part of Mubuku prison's maize garden which has dried due to drought

People looking at part of Mubuku prison’s maize garden which has dried due to drought

According to Kalali, from the 300 acres of land, they had planned to harvest 10 bags of maize per acre.

Currently the 500 inmates at this government prison are relying on food from farms of other prisons in the region.

Kalali insists that the lasting solution to such a problem is irrigation.

Peddy Munyanzikwiye, Kasese District Agriculture Officer says that the district is not financially able to expand the Mubuku irrigation scheme to cover more farmers. “There isn’t much we can do,” she says.

She however says they have started on mini-irrigation schemes beginning with Muhokya area where they constructed a system which can irrigate 200 acres.

Part of Mubuku prisons maize garden which has dried due to drought

Part of Mubuku prisons maize garden which has dried due to drought

Munyanzikwiye notes that they plan to establish more mini-irrigation schemes.

The World Food Programme-WFP estimates that more than 20 million people in Africa are on the brink of starvation.

February 17, 2014

Uganda: Plastic Bottles and Bags for Construction

Akatukunda Basemath
February 17, 2014

An American volunteer has helped to construct a school library in Uganda out of used plastic bottles and Plastic shopping bags popularly known as buvera – all picked from dust bins.

The building, the first of its kind in the country, is found at Mwizi Secondary School in Mbarara district, southwestern Uganda.

 Part of the school library that was constructed using plastic bottles stuffed with plastic bags

Part of the school library that was constructed using plastic bottles stuffed with plastic bags

The low cost technology is helping the region to reuse plastic bottles and bags in a move to avoid plastic menace.

Kimberlaly Koeven, an American Peace Corp volunteers worked with the school leaders to construct the library.

She describes this as an effective solution for reusing the plastic wastes.

Kimberlaly Koeven, in blue, stands next to the school's headmaster as they explain the importance of constructing using plastic bottles and bags to the community members

Kimberlaly Koeven, in blue, stands next to the school’s headmaster as they explain the importance of constructing using plastic bottles and bags to the community members

Polythene bags are non-biodegradable and take between 15 and 1,000 years to breakdown in the environment.

Students and residents living close to this school were shocked. They told our reporter that this initiative will help them clean their environment and at the same time construct buildings cheaply.

“These plastic materials are a time bomb for Uganda because they affect the economy by undermining agricultural productivity through soil degradation,” they lamented.

Speaking during this occasion, Kenneth Tumusiime- the Director Ply Waste, a local NGO noted that this move could increase soil productivity and reduce toxic gases produced as after burning plastic bottles and bags.

 Students of Mwizi Secondary School in Mbarara district stuff plastic bags into the plastic bottles meant to be used in construction of their school's library

Students of Mwizi Secondary School in Mbarara district stuff plastic bags into the plastic bottles meant to be used in construction of their school’s library

Uganda has some of the richest soil in Africa, but in some urban centers and villages it is laced with plastic. Polythene bags when discarded into the soil degrade it, they block waste water drainage systems, they kill farm animals and wild animals that eat it.

In June 2007 the government of Uganda slapped a ban on the importation, use and production of polythene bags of 30 microns and below but this ban has since failed to work.

March 19, 2013

Uganda: Access to Safe Water; More of a Myth than a Reality

Hope Mafaranga
March 19, 2013

As the world marks World Water Day this week, several countries in Africa are still far from achieving the millennium development goal 7 C despite efforts in place.

This goal calls for halving, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

One of such countries is Uganda, where areas in the western, eastern and Northern Uganda continue to cry foul over not only poor water sources but also the long distances women and children travel to fetch water.

A young girl in Kabale district of Uganda returns home after collecting water from a shallow well

A young girl in Kabale district of Uganda returns home after collecting water from a shallow well

A world health organization report in 2012 showed that an estimated 780 million still lacked safe drinking water in 2010 underlining the fact that target C of the millennium goal 7 is far from being achieved.

In western Uganda, people living in hilly areas have no access to piped water while the few water sources are down the hill slope and in the valleys far away from their homes.

Alfred Bikitwoha, a resident of Kashuro Village in Mbarara district western Uganda reveals that his family gets water from a spring over 5 kilometers away.

“We share the spring with other 3 villages. Because of the high number of people and the long distance, we spend 4-5 hours fetching water depending on the number of people you find there,” a visibly tired Bikitwoha revealed adding that his wife gets up as early as 6 am to go to the spring.

About a quarter of Uganda’s population lack access to safe water

About a quarter of Uganda’s population lack access to safe water

As if this is not enough, during the dry spell, this spring runs dry at times complicating lives much more. The situation in Kashuro is similar to what is happening to several other regions of Uganda.

The Mbarara district Assistant Water Engineering Officer, Engineer Joseph Mucunguzi says that the mountainous nature of the area coupled with limited resources is making pumping of water to this area difficult.

In a desperate move, residents have resorted to shrewd but unhealthy ways of keeping water.

James Nuwagaba one of the residents in western Uganda has dug a 40-fit pit to tap water that flows during the rainy season.

This water is what the family uses for all their domestic needs. Those who see Nuwagaba’s style as more advanced collect water off the roofs in jerry cans, pots and sauce pans when it rains.

Some use this water to drink even without preparing it, something that has worsened the burden of water-borne diseases.
Rosette Mutambi – the Executive Director of HEPS Uganda says this is not just a water issue but also leads to local people’s poor health.

“ The issue of health is threat to people’s lives because they suffer from water borne diseases which they should not have if at all they had safe and clean water. As a result, government spends much on drugs more than preventing the diseases,” she says.

She wants government to address this issue urgently.

2013 is International Year of Water Cooperation

2013 is International Year of Water Cooperation

April 15, 2011


Story and Photos by Fredrick Mugira
April 15, 2011
The smell of fresh water and vegetation filled the air. It was a smell reminiscent of a cool feminine perfume in an air conditioned room. The sun had veiled itself under the clouds in a hazy sky.

To our right side, leaves strewed the path beneath short trees where four monkeys sat evenly watching us.

About twenty meters ahead of us, lay a motorized boat. It had been arranged evidently for eight people. It did not take long before we boarded it clad in orange life jackets. But not all of us did. Five didn’t. The boat could not accommodate more than eight persons.

We were a group of workmates visiting the famous Lake Mburo National park in South-western Uganda. Just for leisure. Most of us were already tired after zig-zag-ging on the bumpy roads in the park for more than two hours during the game drive.

A motorised boat on Lake Mburo

In front of the boat sat Moses Matsiko our coxswain and guide. He was positioned ready to steer the boat. He looked strong and spoke with a local accent.

Moses wore a smile of satisfaction as he switched on the boat’s engine that produced loud and shrill noise. That was the time we started our drive around ten calm square kilometres of water named Lake Mburo.

In the nearby papyrus reeds and trees sat purple, gray and black birds. They sang unperturbed by our presence. Some sat on the entrance to their nests.

The shadows of the trees, papyrus reeds, birds and their nests lengthened on top of the water. They looked like well designed pieces of art painted with light black colour. Like a flag hanging on its post being blown by slow winds, the shadows made comparable movements as the boat forced calm waters to make continuous waves.

L-R A Warthog, and two Elands in Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo is the largest of the five lakes in Lake Mburo National Park. The 260 square kilometer park is covered in extensive acacia woodland. I was told it is the best place in Uganda to see the gigantic eland antelopes and several acacia associated birds.

‘The five lakes within the park are homes to hippos, crocodiles and a variety of water birds,’ our guide Moses narrated to us as we sat calmly in the boat he steered at a snail’s pace.

In the boat, we chitchatted and made fun but beneath our jauntiness lay nervousness. Yes. The strange loud sound that came from the boat’s engine conveyed an impression of an exhausted device.

Impalas in Lake Mburo National Park

‘What would happened if this engine stopped suddenly?’ It was a lady seated behind who asked. ‘It can’t,’ replied Moses as he continued to narrate to us that, ‘the swamps you see over there are a home to secretive papyrus specialists such as sitatunga antelope and red, black and yellow papyrus gonglike Monkeys and baboons.’

We had already seen most of these wild animals and snakes during the game drive. And so the coxswain did not attract my attention as he spoke. But the rampant encroachment on Uganda’s swamps by human beings did.

Particular concern has been raised in Uganda over rapid depletion of ecosystem around lakes and rivers which have lost significant portions of the wetlands around them that act as natural purifiers and breeding grounds for fish.

‘Where would such animals, birds and reptiles live if swamps like these ones were destroyed?’ i asked myself quietly further questioning the future of water tourism in Uganda.

Uganda is gifted by nature. It has over 25 big lakes including the famous Lake Victoria -the largest of all African Lakes and also the second widest freshwater body in the world. These lakes and several rivers including River Nile -the longest river in the world contribute a lot in attracting tourists to Uganda.

‘Perhaps, the need to conserve Uganda’s water bodies for their role in water tourism has been underrated in Uganda,’ I though. Tourism brings in the country over $ 800 million annually more than the total earnings of coffee alone which is only $ 300 million.

I was nosy about the earnings from the boat we were in. So I asked Moses about it. There was no reply. He heard me because i spoke loud. His attention was on a nearby crocodile. I asked again. He told me that for every East African for example, to board the Finfoot, the motorized boat we were riding in, you must pay 2 dollars. For those from the rest of the countries, it is 10 dollars. Finfoot has its sister boat- Shoebill. Like Finfoot, Shoebill is also named after the endemic Shoebill bird found this park. It is a 14 seater.

‘In the low season, each of the two boats carry tourists around the lake twice a day. In a busy season from June to September, they move around the lake over 5 times a day each,’ Moses told me as the rest of the people we had on the boat paid less attention.Their concentration was on the crocodile pausing like a snake ready to strike by the lake side.

Noiselessly, the crocodile turned and looked at us. The girl that sat on my left side swallowed some saliva as she watched it. ‘She is scared,’ I thought. There was a plea in her eyes but she was scared to translate this into words.

It is obvious. Without Lake Mburo, Lake Mburo National Park would not have been there. The park derives its name from the lake.

In turn, the lake derives its name from Mburo, the brother of Kigarama, I was told. Mburo and Kigarama lived at the exact place where the lake is. One night Kigarama had a dream that a lake was going to be formed at the exact place where they were staying. He told his brother Mburo to leave the place. Mburo refused. Kigarama went to the neighboring hill. The following day his dream came true. The place became a lake and Mburo drowned in it. Subsequently, the lake was named Mburo. The neighboring hill where Kigarama settled was also named Kigarama.
By this time, we had spent more than an hour on the lake. The boat was heading towards the starting point.

We glimmered at the hippos hiding their massive bodies in the water as they stared back at us sullenly.

‘Come again,’ Moses told us with a ring of finality in his statement as he switched off the engine of the boat while it attempted to skid at the exact point we started from.

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