PAKWACH. Farmers neighbouring the Andibo dam in Panyango sub-county, Pakwach district are reaping big from growing marketable produce through drip irrigation.

The 87 farmers are divided in seven groups where each group then uses an acre of land around the dam to choose an enterprise of their choice to specialise in.

The farmers were first trained by the ministry of water and environment on lucrative enterprise selection.

For Wadikira group, which is comprised of mainly school dropout youths, they are growing water melon on large scale and are excited about the dividends that they got from the first season.

Mr Kennedy Opio, the group leader said they earned over shs7million from the last season when they started the farming.

"We have ready markets from Kenya and South Sudan, we are not regretting after the training we got from the ministry of water and environment," he said.

Opio said the venture has instilled sense of ownership in the youths and is steadily turning their negative attitudes towards agriculture.

The ministry of water and environment through Pakwach district local government supplies farm inputs, makes access roads and looks for markets for the produce.

Mr Victor Munguoneno, an agronomist at the farms said farmers are also trained to integrate growing of vegetables besides the sweet water melon for diversification to improve their livelihoods.

"Green paper and Cabbages have improved the welfare of the community due to their short gestation period as a result, we expect bumper harvest next seasons," he said.

Farmers can also use a nearby greenhouse to grow their plants at the times of stressful weather conditions.

But he decried low production during rainy season which comes with high rates of fungal infection that leads to flower and fruits abortion.

The pilot farming exercise at the site is done through drip irrigation for constant supply of water. The community now also wants fishing to be added to the enterprises to accommodate the fishing community in the area.

Ms Immaculate Acayo, a pumpkin grower and a member of Bedukuryeku group said she made losses in the first harvest as she depended on local market for consumption.

"Transporting the pumpkins from the garden to the market is a challenge and majority of my pumpkins ended up rotting and unconsumed. I want government to address that," she appealed.

The project was initiated as pilot in 2018 and the government is set to enrol it to farmers in the cooperatives with emphasis of driving them from subsistence to commercial farming.