Creative farmers modify borehole to irrigate fruit trees in the dry season

    | March 23, 2009

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    The value of water in a rural community is beyond measure. It is not only essential for drinking, cooking, and washing, but also for irrigating the crops and livestock that provide food and livelihoods. This week’s script visits Ajera village in the Soroti district of Uganda, where villagers manage their water to meet all of these needs. Farmers discuss the unique way that their borehole well was adapted to allow excess water to irrigate fruit trees. They also explain the measures they take to keep drinking water from the well safe and clean.

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    Notes to Broadcaster

    Water is a vital component in rural households for domestic use and for farming. Soroti district in eastern Uganda receives rainfall in two seasons. During the dry season, there is little farm activity. However, there are farmers who grow perennial crops. But these crops survive only when there is enough moisture in the ground left over from the rainy season.

    A community in the village of Ajera, Asuret Sub-county in Soroti district, has devised a coping mechanism to ensure that their farms have ample moisture throughout the dry season. They use surface run off water and water from a borehole to irrigate their crops such as oranges, pineapples, mangoes, guavas, groundnuts, tomatoes, watermelon, bananas, and vegetables. The community also does general cleaning around the borehole every weekend; every family must participate in order to get clean, safe water. In this radio script, the broadcaster visited the community twice and had discussions with the community.

    This script is based on actual interviews, conducted with villagers in Uganda. To produce this script on your station, you might choose to use voice actors to represent the villagers, and change the wording in the script to make it suitable for your local situation. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interview, and that the program has been adapted for your local audience, but is based on real interviews.


    Mr. Ojok Christopher: farmer and leader of the Ajokis Edeke farm
    Ms. Adongo Norah: farmer
    Mr. Okello Michael: farmer
    Ms. Asio Grace: farmer
    Ms. Inachu Loyce: farmer
    Mr. Edongu Simon: farmer

    Program jingle

    Host: Welcome to our program about farming today. Today, we have a special programme about agriculture, water and sanitation. It is a special programme because it is about issues that concern us in our everyday lives, and which relate to health, water, farming and food security in our homes. We will hear from members of a community in Ajera village, Asuret Sub-county in Soroti district, eastern Uganda. This community is using water from a borehole for farming and for home use, and at the same time keeping their water clean in order to avoid water-related disease such as diarrhea. Because it is a challenge to get enough water for crops, and clean and safe water for domestic use – especially in the dry season – we will learn from them how they have managed to keep their gardens productive throughout the year and maintain good health in their families by using safe and clean water from the borehole instead of unprotected water from the swamps.

    We will speak with Mr. Ojok Christopher, the leader of the Ajokis Edeke farm, and several other farmers, including Ms. Adongo Norah, Mr. Okello Michael, Ms. Asio Grace, Ms. Inachu Loyce, and Mr. Edongu Simon. They are all community members from Ajera.

    You are welcome to the show. I am sure many listeners are eagerly waiting to hear you talk to us about your new approach to using water both for home consumption and for farming. We will be back to talk to the farmers after a short break.

    Short music break

    Host: Welcome back. Mr. Ojok Christopher is the leader of the Ajokis Edeke farm. Please tell us how you conceived the irrigation plan of utilizing water to both grow your crops throughout the year and provide clean and safe water for consumption.

    Mr. Ojok: Good afternoon listeners. Well, as you have said, I am commonly known as Ajokis Edeke. I got this idea in 1986 when I started planting orange trees in my village in Ajera. In 1987, we abandoned the village because of the rebel insurgency. For two years in my new village we just grew on a small scale for home consumption. When I returned after the war, there was only bush. So I began working on the farms afresh.

    Host: How much land had you been farming at the time of the insurgency?

    Mr. Ojok: I started with about one and a half hectares. In Ajera village, planting fruit was not extensive; we only maintained a few trees within the compound. But I had a plan to grow fruit for sale, so I tried a slightly bigger acreage than was usual for fruit growing.

    Host: Thank you for that background. I hope farmers listening have heard that they can be innovative and plan to grow products for sale. We also have Ms. Adongo Norah, who is part of the Ajokis Edeke farm. You are welcome to the show. Tell us about your experience in using water for irrigation.

    Ms. Adongo: Good afternoon listeners, and thank you, presenter. I am privileged to be among the people benefiting from the technology of using water from a borehole for growing crops and having safe water for home use.

    Host: Tell us about the situation in the village before the improvement of the technology

    Ms. Adongo: Before we started to use the borehole runoff to irrigate our crops, we lost many fruit trees during the dry spell because we could not manage to collect enough water from the natural spring to irrigate all the trees or have safe water for our homes. We carried the water from the spring in pots or jerry cans on our heads, but sometimes the spring dries up. Also, it’s not safe because animals like cows can drink from the same water.

    Host: How far is the spring from your home?

    Ms. Adongo: It is one kilometre from my home.

    Ms. Asio: In fact, it is one and a half kilometres from mine. We live in the same village but our homes are far apart. Water is a serious problem in our village. Many women in our village now fetch water from the Ajokis Edeke borehole. It’s very safe, compared to the water we used to get from the natural spring.

    Host: Yes, there are water problems in many rural areas. You mentioned that the water from the borehole is used for both home consumption and for farming. How is this done?

    Mr. Edongu: Thank you, presenter. The borehole is no different than any other borehole. But at the outlet point, we welded another pipe to the main pipe. This other pipe takes some of the water to a reservoir tank.

    Host: So you have a tank somewhere?

    Mr. Edongu: Yes, we have a reservoir where we keep excess water that would otherwise run off and be lost. We constructed the storage tank ourselves, using cement and bricks made by the community members. It’s a circular tank, about two metres in diameter and two metres deep.

    Mr. Okello: The water is directed to the reservoir by a three and a half metre long pipe. So, when we pump water to fill water containers from the main water pipe of the borehole, some of the water that is pumped is directed to the tank. That is how we get irrigation water for farming from the reservoir.

    Host: Interesting. How did you learn about this technology?

    Mr. Ojok: It was our own idea. We needed a solution that would provide us with water for the farm as well as keep the borehole area clean. So we asked the welders to add another piece of metal and a pipe so that we could have water going to the water containers for home use and some water channelled to the water reservoir, which we use for watering our plants. During the dry season, we use the water from the reservoir for irrigating the farm. It’s just a normal hand pump. So, instead of the excess water splashing out and making the area around the borehole muddy, the water is directed to the reservoir. This keeps the area around the borehole tidy.

    Host: How is the water from the reservoir used for farming?

    Mr. Ojok: The water tank has an outlet that is connected to pipes that lead to the orchards. This outlet is regulated. When the pipes are opened in the mornings and evenings, the water flows straight to the fruit trees. This keeps them moist and green throughout the year. The level of water in the reservoir is kept constant, because people keep coming for the water for domestic use, so clean water is constantly being added to the reservoir.

    Host: What happens during the rainy season?

    Mr. Okello: During the rainy season, we do not open the valve that leads the water to the farm, because there is already enough moisture in the soil for the plants to absorb. We store the water for the dry times. You might wonder how such an idea emerged from a village like ours. But as the Europeans say, necessity is the mother of invention. Our need for water made a group of villagers think hard until we came up with a solution to our problem.

    Host: So how does the community keep the area around the borehole clean and disease-free?

    Ms. Inachu: Boreholes are usually damp, muddy and wet areas that attract the mosquitoes which cause malaria. But with this method, we use all the water from the borehole, and there is very little water that spills over the main outlet. Instead, the water is channelled to the pipe that leads to the reservoir. We also do general cleaning of the surrounding area communally to keep the area around the borehole clean. In case of breakdowns, we all contribute to the repair. After receiving an estimate for the total cost of the repair, the cost is divided among all the families who use the borehole. In fact, we have a borehole maintenance committee that handles repairs and we have never had any problem when it comes to repairs. The community is very cooperative because they know the benefits. Also, before taking the water home, we make sure it’s safe by cleaning all our storage containers at the borehole. We wash them in water from the small reservoir, and the wash water is used to water the kitchen garden around the borehole area. At home, we cover the water we consume with a clean plate if it is stored in a pot, or in plastic drums and jerry cans. We even give our animals borehole water rather than swamp water, to prevent them from getting infections from the swamp water.

    Host: This is very interesting. Listeners, we will continue with this programme about water and sanitation from Ajokis Edeke faming community in Asuret. Let’s have a short music break.

    Musical break

    Host: Welcome back from the music break. We are hosting the farmers from Asuret who have conceived of a brilliant method for using all the water from their hand pump borehole instead of wasting the spillover water.

    Ms. Asio: Many villagers have learned a lot from our new methods, and today they use any borehole water which is left over from domestic chores. We all have backyard gardens; any water that is left over from washing dishes, bathing and laundry at home is used to water the vegetables in our backyard gardens.

    Host: Did this also start from the Ajokis Edeke farming initiative?
    Mr. Ojok: Yes, they learned a lot from me. By engaging in the farm activities and seeing how I have maintained the cleanliness around the borehole and my home, people have learned a lot, especially about using water. They have also learned how to make composted manure, how to use cow dung and ash to add fertility to their gardens, and how to graft fruit trees for sale.

    Host: You must be very busy people in Ajera.

    Ms. Asio: Yes, of course. We are busy all the time, but it pays off because our fruit sells well – people buy them because of their size and taste. And we are healthy!

    Ms. Adongo: When you see our mangoes, oranges, pineapples and guavas we sell in the market, they are juicier than any others. That is the selling advantage for us.

    Mr. Ojok: Of course, the varieties of fruit we grow are grafted and exotic. They are tastier, have more juice, and have a pleasant smell that attracts customers. In fact, the President of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Museveni, visited our farm and offered us two cows.

    Host: You mean that the President has come to Ajera village to visit your farm? Oh, that is very interesting.

    Mr. Okello: Yes. He did visit us and recommended that the National Agricultural Advisory Service come to learn from us about this innovation.

    Mr. Ojok: After that visit, many people came to us to learn many things. We really got a lot of exposure and publicity.

    Mr. Edongu: We have benefited from the water technology a lot. Without the water technology, the farm would not be prosperous, and even our families would not be healthy because we would not be able to get clean water.

    Ms. Inachu: During the rainy season, we collect runoff from our terraces and keep the water in an underground pond which is used only for watering the tree nurseries.

    Host: So you also have a tree nursery?

    Ms. Inachu: Yes, we grow many fruit trees and we have a big market of buyers, including farmers’ groups. For example, we have five types of fruit trees that we graft for sale.

    Mr. Okello: We supply pineapple suckers to many farmers; currently, we have an order for four trucks full of pineapple suckers.

    Host: Thank you so much for this information. (Pause) We have come to the end of our programme about farming, water and sanitation today. I am grateful to the farmers from Ajokis Edeke, who have used the opportunity of a borehole to create successful farming and maintain the sanitation in their community. I hope listeners have learned a lot from this programme. Until we meet again, I am your host Alachu Davies on Voice of Teso 88.4 FM, wishing you a good day.


    Contributed by: Alachu Davies, Voice of Teso, Soroti, Uganda, a Farm Radio International radio partner.
    Reviewed by: Alan Etherington, independent consultant in water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, and ex-WaterAid staff.
    Special thanks to the Harbinger Foundation for supporting this script package on water and sanitation.