The solar-powered irrigation system, which draws water from Kyoja Swamp on the Masaka-Ndagwe Road, has recently vandalised.
The scheme was designed to benefit 45 farming households under Kyassonko Small Scale Irrigation Farmers Association (KSSIA) in Kyassonko Village, Kisekka Sub-county in November 2016.
The farmers grow crops such as cabbage, hot pepper, and watermelon.
Mr Anthony Ssebiyiki, a member of KSSIA, said the Shs410m equipment was stolen.
The vandalised equipment include batteries, wires and the main switch.
“The vandals first dug a hole in the store where the equipment is kept and gained access. The theft of the solar panel equipment forced us to raise concern with the resident district commissioner,” he said during an interview at the weekend
The system was set up to buffer the effects of drought during the dry spell.
Mr Ssebiyiki said they have not benefited from the project after government failed to operationalise it. He added that farmers still use jerrycans to irrigate their crops.
“The contractor came and put water tanks without installing drip irrigation pipes connecting to our gardens. We tried to look for help and everyone at the district could say that they were not responsible for the project,” he said.
The Kyassonko Village chairperson, Mr Jerome Ssemuli, said many farmers have since quit the association.
“At first, we tried to collect money amongst ourselves to operationalise the project but failed . The group had 42 members, but majority have lost morale and only 11 are remaining in the association ,” he said.
Mr Gerald Kikomeko, the chairperson of KSSIA, said the thieves had technical knowledge.
“No amateur could break into that fence the way they did. The people who stole the equipment knew very well how that system operates,” Mr Kikomeko said .
Mr Godfrey Lugalambi, the Lwengo District water engineer, said he was not involved in the initial stages of the project and knows little about it .
“The engineer who did the project came from Mbarara and he did not inform me about its progress, not even paying a courtesy visit to my office,” Mr Lugalambi said .
Mr George Matovu Saitoti, the former speaker of Lwengo District, in an earlier interview said before government handed over the project to the beneficiaries, the Ministry of Agriculture trained three residents to carry out simple repairs.
“In fact, the water should not be overflowing because we had told them [farmers] to control it manually right at the pump. In regard to the water not getting into the drip irrigation pipe, I think it is due to the impurities in the water since it is pumped directly from the swamp. They will need water filters,” he said.
Mr Herman Ssentongo, the resident district commissioner, tasked the district police commander and the chief administrative officer to investigate the matter.
“Government injected a lot of money into that project and it’s absurd that leaders did not play their role to monitor it. I am still new here but I promise we are going to bring to book whoever messed up that project ,”Mr Ssentongo said.
Meanwhile, the four solar-powered irrigation systems in Kalungu District, funded by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the European Union (EU), are progressing well.
The systems in three sub-counties of Lwabenge, Bukulula, Kyamulibwa are part of the climate change adaptation measures.
Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture revealed they would establish more small-scale irrigation schemes in all parishes across the country to improve livelihoods through commercial farming .
The project, that would be implemented in a phased manner, aims at increasing storage volumes of water for irrigation, livestock and aquaculture in the country’s 10,594 parishes.
Uganda has irrigation potential of 3.03 million hectares. Of that, the current irrigation coverage is 0.5 per cent.
The total land under irrigation is around 15,000 hectares.