Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Akwera, the dam that is just...

African crop scientists meet in Entebbe
Those who were in Entebbe on Monday October 14, 2013, must have noticed groups of men and women carrying similar bags, with books and laptops in there, walking towards Lake Victoria in the morning and back to the little airport town in the evening. Who were they? Well, these were hundreds of African crop scientists who had gathered for their 11th meeting at Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel – key on their agenda was how Africa could become food secure. I am told the meeting should have been held in Cameroon but President Paul Biya blocked it because he believed it was intended to discuss GMOs. GMOs? We shall have that another day! 
      Press briefing
A sign post at Akwera dam
Just follow me to the press conference held after the opening session, specifically to the question why, a dam in Otuke district, called Akwera, which cost UGX 8bn, with capacity of 1.4 billion litres, has for two years never been used.
Akwera dam has capacity of 1.4b litres
As it lies idle, most families in Otuke confess to starving for at least three months in a year. You can imagine having nothing for breakfast, mangoes for lunch and then a small meal for dinner – even those near the dam cannot use a single drop of the water to produce food during dry spells. 
Minister Bachanayandi
Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Minister Grace Bacyanayandi answers my question: “We first had to identify the people to use the dam.” Then he adds: “We mainly want to focus on small scale rainwater harvesting to benefit many farmers.”
So why was that dam dug if large scale irrigation was not the main priority in Otuke? This is a district whose occupants have only settled in the last five years following over 20 years of insurgency. Activities of the Lords’ Resistance Army headed by Joseph Kony displaced them into Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps in neighbouring districts. To say they are poor is an understatement. 
A woman washes clothes by the dam

Now let’s go into a bit of mathematics. Otuke’s has 80,000 people. If the money was divided among them they each would receive 100,000. If on average we have families of six each would receive an investment of UGX 600,000. What if smaller water harvesting projects were done per village using the very financial investment that went into Akwera?
Now here is the challenge. The Ministry of Water and Environment builds the dams and says it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to channel that water to farms. The latter has different ideas, if you can read between the ministers lines. There are six dams of that side recently established in drought prone areas of Uganda – another three are even much large, with 2.3 billion litres capacity. What are they used for? Just keep retuning to this blog for updates.

No comments:

Post a Comment