In Uganda, Buckets of Hope

Simple drip-irrigation project helps farmers conquer the dry season
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Action Against Hunger is empowering farmers in Uganda. Photo: T. Frank

Editor's Note: Our thanks to the Action Against Hunger team in Uganda for providing the case study that informed this post.

Last year, Action Against Hunger tried something new in Uganda to protect small-scale farmers from dry spells that leave them with minimal food or income. We introduced a simple, low-cost system that uses ordinary buckets and lengths of tubing to effectively "drip-irrigate" small farms.  In partnership with the World Food Programme and as part of the efforts of the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund, we offered training and "household bucket irrigation" kits to communities in Kaabong District, including Napusimoru village.

That’s where we met John Logwee, a 45-year-old married father of six.

“I was selected by my fellow beneficiaries in the parish to host the small-scale household bucket irrigation pilot, since I had expressed interest in vegetable production,” he explained.

First, our team trained John to use and maintain the bucket irrigation technology to grow a range of vegetables. Then we gave him eight sachets of onion seeds, several bucket irrigation kits, and other tools, such as a jerry can. 

Because it was designed to drip-irrigate small plots of land, the bucket system uses minimal water, and has proven inexpensive, efficient, and durable. The system requires little physical labor to maintain, making it appropriate for pregnant women, elderly people, and individuals with some physical disabilities to use. John and other families are reporting that the bucket system has helped them produce food and earn income during the "hunger gap."

“I decided to prepare 120 square meters [almost 1,300 square feet] of land, and installed four bucket irrigation kits, each one covering 30 square meters [more than 300 square feet]. I then planted the prepared seed beds with Red Creole onions,” John added.

“One month later, I started eating the leaves of the onions. After three months, my family started consuming the mature onions. We had a surplus in excess of our home consumption, so I sold the surplus and earned a total of 185,200 Uganda shillings [approximately $53 USD]. Because my family had no goats, I decided to invest 150,000 Uganda shillings into buying three goats. The remaining 35,000 Uganda shillings we used to buy basic household items like salt, sugar, soap, school materials for my son, and new trousers for me.”

John plans to grow more onions so he can acquire more goats. He’s working with our teams to expand from bucket irrigation to larger-scale drum irrigation so that he can effectively scale up his crop production.

“I won’t cry about seasons anymore,” he said. “I can make more money in both dry and wet seasons now."

His goal is to raise 50 goats, and to be able to send his children to secondary school and ultimately to university.

John is now enrolled in training to help him market his crops and better track and manage his revenue. He is learning methods for keeping records, setting appropriate prices, and he has joined a savings group, which will improve his capacity to pursue commercial farming.

John says, “Growing onions is helping me with growing goats!”

He’s excited to see where the future takes him and his family – as are all of his friends at Action Against Hunger.

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About Elisabeth Anderson Rapport

Elisabeth Anderson Rapport, Senior Communications Officer

Elisabeth is Action Against Hunger's senior communications officer, reporting on our impact and current events around the world.