The progress of irrigation projects in the Teso and Karamoja regions of Uganda is being hampered due to conflicts over ministerial responsibilities. On October 17, 2023, the Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Hon. Frank Tumwebaze, expressed concerns about overlapping mandates between his ministry and the Ministry of Water and Environment. This situation has resulted in a misallocation of resources and has led to policy and responsibility ambiguities.
Minister Tumwebaze presented a report on the implementation status of a water project aimed at enhancing agricultural production in Teso and Karamoja to the Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries. He highlighted that this overlapping of responsibilities has created accountability issues, particularly in determining which ministry should be responsible for constructing dams in these regions.
Tumwebaze clarified that the Cabinet had previously resolved that the Ministry of Water and Environment is responsible for bulk water resources and conservation, while on-farm activities such as constructing valley dams and irrigation fall under the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries. However, the presence of departments for water for agriculture within both ministries has caused a dispersion of resources.
In an effort to resolve this issue, Minister Tumwebaze suggested that discussions be held between the Ministry of Water and Ministry of Finance to consolidate financial resources for water projects in a single accountable sector.
Legislator Hon. Esther Mbayo (NRM, Luuka District Woman Representative) urged the government to address and resolve this long-standing conflict for the benefit of the Ugandan population.
Additionally, Maj. Gen. David Kasura Kyomukama, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, mentioned that security concerns have partly impacted the construction of valley dams. He cited an incident where geologists from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development were attacked and killed while carrying out a mapping exercise in Moroto District in March 2022.
Kyomukama emphasized the need for ensuring the safety of ministry officials working in the Teso and Karamoja sub-regions to ensure the efficient implementation of water projects for agricultural production. The legislators encouraged the Ministry of Agriculture to collaborate with security forces to enhance security during project implementation.
Despite the security challenges mentioned, some legislators, such as Hon. Moses Aleper (NRM, Chekwii County) and Hon. Stella Atyang (NRM, Moroto District Woman Representative), expressed the view that insecurity in Karamoja primarily pertains to livestock and some specific roads, and should not impede the progress of these important agricultural projects. They reiterated the importance of seeking support from security forces to overcome these obstacles.