The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has developed an interactive, web-based mapping tool for Sub Saharan African farmers and policymakers that assists them in selecting the best irrigation technologies to invest in.
IFPRI research revealed that if farmers in Africa tap into the continent's significant irrigation potential, they could increase production by 50 per cent.
Dubbed the Investment Visualizer, the IFPRI tool allow users to determine which of the nine smallholder-friendly irrigation options would be most beneficial in a specific area and conditions. The nine include water harvesting, motor pumps, rural electrification, and small water reservoirs.
Claudia Ringler, IFPRI senior researcher, said the necessary irrigation tools and techniques are available, such as motorised pumps or water harvesting, but many farmers don't have access to them.
"These solutions haven't made it into farmers' hands because policymakers haven't provided the enabling environment that would allow these tools to spread," she explained. "But there is increasing realization by investors that smallholder agricultural water technologies can really pay off.”
The Visualizer produces a map of a sub-region or country along with supporting figures that illustrate the impacts of adopting the irrigation method under consideration. The tool shows, for example, the number of people who could be reached through adoption of the method and how much smallholder farmers could earn for staple and cash crops as a result of its implementation.
What users don’t see, however, is the complex models that produce the Visualizer’s results. “This is the first-ever tool that combines highly disaggregated hydrological and agronomic models with food supply and demand analysis and crop optimization, to assess where irrigation is really profitable” said Ringler.
The tool has been welcomed by scientists and extension officers who say it has already assisted them in having a focused approach to irrigation solutions.
“We have both government and development partners putting a lot of money into irrigation schemes, but this hasn't translated into tangible results on the ground, because implementers don't know what kind of irrigation works best where. This web tool has come to us at a very important time when we are rolling out small-holder irrigation schemes,” said Dr. Karanja Ontare from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Both government and private sector have stepped up funding for irrigation ventures aware that it is the only way to increase food production in the face of unpredictable weather patterns. In the 2012-2013 financial year the government allocated Sh8bn to the irrigation sub sector. This is a drop from Sh10.2nn last financial year, but the government say the growing interest by development
partners and the private sector in funding the irrigation sector is a step in the right direction and will bolster government efforts. Money has been set aside for the construction of proper irrigation facilities, and water harvesting measures have also been introduced.
Some of the successful small-holder irrigation schemes in the country include the Nguuru Gakirwe water project. Started in1985 with a group of 15 small holders, the group's initial plan was to abstract water from the nearby River Kithinu for domestic use, but they later used it for irrigation. By 1987, the farmers, now numbering 107, approached the Catholic Diocese of Meru for technical and financial assistance to implement the project for irrigation. The project was implemented in three phases through grants from donors and the government to the tune of $750,000. It now serves 430 farming households with piped sprinkler irrigation, creating direct employment for over 3000 people.
Each farmer is allowed to irrigate a maximum of 0.4 ha. The most interesting aspect of this scheme is that it produces high-value organic herbs like chamomile, carcade and lemon grass, which are processed and packaged at the factory run by farmers, and the produce is exported to niche markets in Europe and Japan. Foodcrops are also irrigated for home consumption.
Wrtitten by Bob Koigi for African Laughter
Newer news items:
Older news items:
- Seed potatoes from healthy mother plants up yields - 14/08/2012 10:17
- Knowledge Bank gives farmers pest tool - 30/07/2012 18:07
- Young graduate builds flour plant to tackle banana glut - 11/07/2012 14:25
- New tech takes the weeping out of processing chillies - 10/05/2012 14:19
- Farmers urged to plant Kenya's high-value medicinal prune tree before extinction - 16/04/2012 13:21