Samuel Ojok is a vegetable farmer in Otuke District in northern Uganda. Every tomato season, he grows two or more acres of tomatoes and other vegetables such as cabbage, green pepper, onions and watermelons.
He is never worried about his garden running short of water or getting affected by a change of weather. Unlike other farmers whose tomato growing is dependent on the rainy season, Ojok says he does not have to wait for the rainy season to grow tomatoes and other crops because of the treadle irrigation pump he acquired two years ago.
“What I do is to make sure that I have a reliable source of immobile water that I created after digging a ditch. I connect the suction pipe to the treadle machine and pump using my feet and the water is delivered to the crops at about 30 meters through the delivery pipe,” Ojok explains.
“In about 30 minutes, I can irrigate an acre of tomato garden. The delivery pipe is long and can cover and reach a wider size of the garden,” he adds. Ojok is part of Otuke Private Sector Farmers’ Association that brings together farmers in the district with the aim of agricultural development through mechanisation. Amooti Peter Kahwa also uses the technology on his maize farm in Masindi. He says the irrigation tool has helped him harvest handsomely even in dry spells. “While other farmers were counting losses two seasons due to drought, I was very lucky. My garden was not affected by the dry spell. I made a lot of money that season,” explains Kahwa who bought the equipment from Davis and Shirtliff.
Musa Epatait of Kumi District made profits of Shs10m from finger millet in 2017. The farmer attributes this success to the irrigation equipment. Epatait is a mixed farmer engaged in sorghum, rice and cassava growing.
“2017 was a good year. I was able to make some money from millet sales because I used irrigation. As most farmers got affected by the dry spell, my garden kept receiving water,” he says.
Compared to the kind of irrigation where crops are irrigated through water pipes that are channelled beneath crop columns or rows, Douglas Opio, the sales manager at China North Machine along Jinja Road in Kampala says the treadle pumps minimises farm costs in terms of hiring labour and that it also comes with low maintenance costs. It mainly serves farmers best during the dry season.
“It is a manual pump that is recommended for farmers starting agriculture on small scale. It neither uses fuel nor power. You only have to use your legs to peddle to harvest water from an already established source and connect a water sprinkler to be able to irrigate,” Opio explains.
At China North Machine, the treadle pump costs Shs500,000 while the sprinkler goes for Shs250,000. This therefore implies that a complete set of a treadle pump will cost you approximately Shs750,000.
Eliab Mugume, an agricultural farm tools dealer at a certain dealership at Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) showground at Lugogo in Kampala says the treadle pump is one of a kind farmers should embrace because it is maintenance free.
“It is a long-lasting machine that you will not spend on repairs such as oil and air and fuel filters to have it work well. It gives you full value for your money,” Mugume observes.
With approximately six years since the treadle pump technology was introduced on the Ugandan market, Mugume concludes that it can be used in the remotest of areas for upcountry farmers.