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MPs defer UGX 990 Bn loan for irrigation, enterprise development

Kadaga presiding of yesterday’s plenary.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament has delayed the approval of funding amounting to 990 billion Shillings to finance the construction of irrigation schemes, drainage channels and dams as part of a new climate-resilient irrigation project.

The project is expected to benefit 63,200 smallholder farmers in Isingiro, Kanungu, Lamwo, Lira, Tororo, Mukono, Wakiso, Mpigi, and Rukungiri districts. Under the project, the government plans to build two new large-scale public irrigation schemes in Kabuyanda, Isingiro, as well as Matanda and Enengo irrigation schemes in Kanungu and Rukungiri districts.

The irrigation project will also be implemented in the Eastern, Northern and Central regions where the government is seeking to provide farmers with access to irrigation and other agricultural services and to establish management arrangements for irrigation service delivery through expanding services at Nyimur multipurpose irrigation scheme in Lamwo and Amagoro irrigation scheme in Tororo.

According to the breakdown, the government has borrowed 623 billion Shillings (USD 169.2 million) from the International Development Association of the World Bank Group to finance the irrigation for climate resilience projects and an additional 367 billion Shillings to finance the competitiveness and enterprise development project.  The money was approved by the World Bank on June 18.

According to the Ministry of Water write up, the project is expected to contribute to the improvement of farm incomes, rural livelihoods, food security and climate resilience, sustainable natural resources management and agricultural enterprise development. The Ministry observes that access to irrigation is critical to allowing farmers to cope with climate variability, to increase yield and intensification, and diversify towards higher-value crops.

However, MPs rejected the loan requests while debating two reports from the National Economy committee tabled by MP Wamakuyu Mudimi on grounds that the government is yet to utilize money borrowed for the same purpose earlier.

Richard Okoth Othieno, the West Budama North MP says that the National Economy Committee didn’t clearly indicate how the debt burden would affect Ugandans. He also explained that the loans worth  412 billion Shillings that were approved last year for irrigation haven’t been absorbed to date.

Cecilia Ogwal, the Dokolo Woman MP says the government has been slow in absorbing loans, adding that there is no strategy and adequate capacity to promote irrigation in the country. She asked the government to put its house in order before applying for another loan.

Kampala Woman MP Nabillah Naggayi Sempala says Ugandans detest the high level of borrowing and it’s worse that the government continues to borrow.

Rosemary Nauwat, the Amudat Woman MP questioned why the government needed money to compensate people for their land on an irrigation project saying there could be a ploy for officers to steal part of this money.

Jessica Ababiku, the Adjumani Woman MP questioned why other regions have not benefited from the loans. The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga said there were several issues that are unclear in the proposal including a suggestion for farmers to purchase on farm equipment and that farmers were never consulted on the loan.

The First Deputy Prime Minister Moses Ali said that if government borrows and the money has not been absorbed, it does not mean that more money should not be borrowed for critical areas. He says the responsible Ministries that haven’t used the money should be held accountable. Uganda’s public debt stood at 53 trillion Shillings as of April 2020.

According to the World Bank, the agriculture sector employs 70 percent of Uganda’s population, providing income, employment and livelihoods across the country. However, the sector continues to be subject to climate change, as evidenced by increased droughts and erratic rainfall.

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