MUKONO – State Minister for Environment Beatrice Anywar has called on the youths to participate in agriculture if they are to overcome unemployment challenges.
The Minister together with UK partners were on Friday launching a mega solar-powered irrigation project in Mpumu-Ntanzi Parish, Ntenjeru sub-country, Mukono District about 24 km, East of the capital, Kampala, aimed at boosting agricultural productivity.
“We look forward to also having the youth to be involved in this not only the women. We encourage our youth that this could be one of those which will answer unemployment in this country,” said the minister.
Through Nexus Green Ltd, a Solar Energy Company that specialises in designing, supplying, manufacturing, and delivering affordable solar-powered solutions that reduce carbon emissions, provide cheaper, cleaner energy and power to the nation, the government of Uganda has invested £95 million which will see close to 700 standard solar-powered irrigation schemes installed across the country.
Ms. Anwar said during the launch that the government will ensure that farmers have access to irrigation infrastructure to mitigate the negative effects of climate change.
“This is something we have been dreaming of, it is going to make things cheaper and therefore the beneficiaries are going scoop more rather than when we were using electricity which is a little bit expensive,” she said.
She said that the government has lined up various projects aimed at promoting irrigation across the country to lessen dependence on rain-fed agriculture.
“We are happy as a government that we have come as partners and seen the reality on the ground and we intend to multiply it all over the country and this will be a game-changer going a long way to answer the unpredictability of the weather.”
“Also we are looking at having the technology as we partner with our partners here we are also conscious that we tap in the technology. We are happy when we went to their offices (Nexus Green) we found that Ugandan youth graduates are actually at the center of the productivity of this project. So we want to be replicated,” the minister applauded.
At the function was also H.E Kate Airey, the British High Commissioner to Uganda who lauded the government of Uganda for the step taken, saying that the project will go a long way in improving the lives of smallholder farmers and reduce vulnerability in the catchment area.
Ms. Janet Rogan, Amb COP26 for Africa and the Middle East who said that the unpredictable climate change is due to rising levels of pollution.
She, however, called on developed countries to share clean technology with the developing world which will positively impact the lives of many.
The ministry’s Permanent Secretary Alfred Okidi, however, revealed that the project is being funded on a UK-government loan.
“The total cost of the project is a £95m loan and it is going to establish, based on our initial estimation at least 700 facilities of this nature across the country. The ministry of water and environment is responsible for the identification and securing the sites where these projects are going to be implemented,” he said.
Okidi said the ministry is also mandated to supervise and monitor Nexus Green and other sub-contractors to ensure that this loan of £95m delivers on the purpose on which it was designed.
“This project is supposed to be implemented within a period of three years. So this is the first year of commencement and we expect within the next three years we should be done with all the 700 schemes in the place.”
Farmers willing to benefit, Okidi revealed that will be paying 20-30% of the profits of the produce they get for the “project sustainability.”
He said that the Mukono project which is of demonstration site will be completed around the end of November or December this year.
“We have five different sub-contractors hired by Nexus Green who are going to be working on the regional basis across the country.”
Rikki Verma, the CEO of Nexus Green Ltd said the company intends to bring down the cost of energy and improve the connectivity of Ugandans.
Unlike the PS, Verma said that they are doing over 675 standard irrigations in the whole of Uganda.
“This is the largest project the ministry of water and environment has ever done in the history of the ministry and are very proud to be part.”
He said that with such technology, farmers will be less affected by climate change, and will benefit much more than ever.
One of the already beneficiary farmers, Mr Ssewankambo Godfrey thanked the government and Nexus Green “to see that they have thought about us.”
He said that they have been facing a lot of challenges regarding climate change which caused them a lot of losses.
“In six months we would receive rain for only like two and a half months. When for instance maize starts to spray out, sunshine starts. Where you were expecting about 20 sacks of maize harvest you get four or five at the end. So the amount of money you put in, labour all goes to waste,” said Ssewankambo.
“I plant coffee, banana, and passion fruits and I now expect to get a lot more because of this full-time water.”