Issue 26 – September 2014

Water for Agriculture



A hand-dug irrigation canal in Ethiopia
© D.Magada/IFAD

Over 2000 years ago, the Ancient Romans were faced with a pressing dilemma: providing clean water to a growing city while irrigating agricultural land to ensure a constant food supply to urban consumers. They found a powerful answer to their problem by developing the technology of the aqueducts which meant that for centuries, they had the most advanced infrastructure in the world. With the aqueducts, they brought clean water from the source to the city while organising run-offs along the way to irrigate agricultural fields with water of lesser quality. They are widely credited with inventing an efficient system of urban water distribution which still serves us today.

However, long before the Romans put their genius to the service of advanced engineering, irrigation for agriculture had already been developed in Africa and Mesopotamia. Very early on, the Egyptians had constructed a system of agricultural irrigation to make the most of the regular floodings from the Nile River. All along the river bed, they had dug canals to bring water further afield and extend the area where they could practice agriculture.

Irrigation is about controlling water and water flows to ensure that water becomes available precisely when it is needed. Productive agriculture means having access to water when required as opposed to depending on likely rainfall. Unfortunately, in Africa today, about 95 percent of agriculture still depends on rainfall, which is becoming increasingly less predictable with the adverse effect of climate change. Some of the knowledge developed in Africa 3000 years ago has been lost, and many small scale farmers have to learn again to maximise the different ways of capturing water.



Irrigation scheme under construction in Rwanda
© D.Magada/IFAD

To this end, numerous projects in East and Southern Africa are focusing on irrigation, as well as water harvesting, to help small farmers regain control of water resources from rivers, springs or rainfall. From Ethiopia down to Swaziland, water is an issue. In many cases, farmers are able to grow only one or two crops per year because of a lack of water. In some instances, the water is relatively abundant but farmers are unable to control it. In others, southern Africa in particular, water is so scarce that technologies are needed to make the most of the little resource available.  Whatever the situation or the environment, water is the key.

Many technologies, several of which are relatively uncostly, are available today to help small scale farmers use water efficiently. These technologies include drip irrigation, spate irrigation, rain water harvesting, permaculture as well as on-farm boreholes and wells. The location and local environment should dictate the best technology to use in a given place.

As the following stories illustrate, projects from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in East and Southern Africa are looking at water and irrigation in all its different aspects, from traditional large scale irrigation schemes to agricultural techniques using minimal amounts of water. Again, the key is to bring water to the field at the right time. In Botswana, the Agricultural Sector Support Project (ASSP) is undertaking an important and innovative pilot project to use treated wastewater to produce certain horticultural crops on a 25 hectare plot in Palapye, one of



Irrigated field
© D.Magada/IFAD

Botswana’s larger cities located 300 kilometres north of the capital.
Botswana has extremely limited groundwater resources and there is an imperative to use these scarce resources to best effect. This pilot subcomponent will construct an irrigation perimeter, in proximity to the municipal wastewater treatment facility, to provide irrigation for horticultural production to serve growing local and capital city markets. Approximately 100 farmers will cultivate vegetables on this plot. The project will finance the establishment of central water points and will provide technical assistance and training in horticultural production, as well as organizational support for the establishment of a Water Users’ Association. The farmers are responsible for financing in-field drip irrigation from the main water points. Financing facilities have been pre-identified to fund farmer investments. The reuse of wastewater figures prominently in the government’s medium term strategy and this pilot project is an important first step in developing this area of activity.

Furthermore, IFAD projects are also bringing unexpected benefits to women and youth empowerment as seen in the PASIDP project in Ethiopia (see story below). Some of the projects, such as the Nabuyani irrigation scheme in Zambia, also come to demonstrate that, when designed according to the environment where they are implemented and with the full participation of the local community, they can be sustainable over the long term (see story below). No single system is the most adequate, what is important is to ensure effective control of the water resource over the long term, which is what IFAD projects aim to achieve.


Rwanda: Innovative ways to access water



Watering a field in Rwanda
© Ann Turinayo/IFAD

Beyond the traditional dams which irrigate long stretches of land, various innovations to support crop production, in and out of season, have been implemented by the Kirehe Community based Integrated Watershed management project (KWAMP) supported by IFAD in Rwanda. The project has reclaimed some marshlands and set up valley dams and schemes, to enable farmers to grow rice for home consumption and commercial purposes as well as upland crops development. Vegetables and fruits are also grown throughout the year to improve the diet of the families.
One of the innovations has been the utilisation of runoff water from the tarmac roads for irrigation of family farms during the dry season. The water is directed towards a pond in the farmer’s garden, where it flows by gravity thanks to the hilly terrain. Farmers living close to the main road are supported to dig out water ponds that can store water to irrigate their vegetable and fruits gardens during the dry season. On a cost-sharing basis, farmers dig out the ponds and the project provides support through the grant for a plastic sheet to line the pond and ensure the water does not seep through. The farmers ensure that the trench for the water is kept clean to avoid silting. They then pump the water out of the pond with a hand operated pump to irrigate their respective gardens.

Bizimana Emmanuel is a farmer and a father of six children. He says his livelihood has changed tremendously since he started growing vegetable in the dry season. "Vegetables are very expensive during the dry season, so I sell at a good profit," said Bizimana. He emphasizes that before the interaction with KWAMP, his family didn’t know the importance of including vegetables in their diet. "Besides, we could not afford them because they were like a luxury. Now, our meals include vegetables, and the children are healthy," he added. “I was so poor that I used to dig in my neighbours gardens in order to get food for just that day. I could not cultivate my own land because that would take forever and my family needed food for the day.”

With the water ponds, Bizimana was able to plant enough vegetables to feed his family and sell extra. From his first harvest, he made about 1,000,000 Rwanda Francs which he used to start building a house. After the second season, he earned more, topped it up with a loan from the SACCO and completed the house. He has had the ponds for five years now and in his view, it works perfectly well. A visit to his farm shows evidence of irrigation. Bizimana has fresh cabbages and tomatoes growing in his garden. He has just harvested some beans. The pawpaw trees in his garden also look lush in spite of the fact that it is in the middle of the dry season. He insists on a tour of his whole two hectares farm to show what he is growing and to share his plans for the future.

However, Bizimana is nevertheless faced with a number of challenges he needs to overcome to continue expanding his farm. For instance, the plastic dam sheet laid in the pond to make it waterproof is often vandalised and he has to find ways of repairing it. He would like to expand the vegetable plot but this means building another pond as the current ones are not sufficient. So being currently short of resources, he is saving money for a plastic dam sheet for an additional pond and until then, he has to make do with the water saved up in the two ponds.

For more information, please contact:

Francisco Pichon, Country Programme Manager for Rwanda, IFAD
Ann Turinayo, Knowledge Management Consultant, Uganda, IFAD

Swaziland: Working in a water-scarce environment with permaculture and water-harvesting



A permaculture field in swaziland
© LUSIP project/Swaziland

One of the issues faced by the communities under the Sustainable Land Management project run by the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP) and the Global Environment Facility-(GEF) in Swaziland is water scarcity. This means that people walk long distances to fetch water and, in some instances, share water sources with livestock. This not only poses great health risks but also means that women have to spend a lot of their valuable time walking to the water source instead of carrying out other activities. At times, they find the rivers dry and have to dig into the sand in order to get to the water level.

To address the issue the project, supported by IFAD and GEF embarked on a series of trainings to teach communities simple technologies, such as permaculture, to grow a garden with little water, and water harvesting to maximize rainfall.

Sbulelo Gamedze, a small scale farmer in the Madlenya area, knew very little about farming before she joined the training provided by the project on permaculture gardening, an agricultural technique based on the use of local resources, little watering and minimal tillage. Two months after the training she has a thriving vegetable garden which enables her to feed her family of six. She grows spinach and lettuce which take a short time to mature and are quickly ready for consumption, as well as carrots, beetroots, garlic, onion and cabbage. She no longer has to spend money buying vegetables from the market. "This is the perfect way to grow a garden here where water is so scarce, because you only water the garden twice a week and the vegetables are good and healthy," she said.



Growing a garden with permaculture
© LUSIP project/Swaziland

During the training, she was taught to be flexible using whatever tools she could find instead of worrying about professional gardening tools. She also learnt how to make her own organic pesticide to prevent pest infection. "I didn't have the necessary gardening tools at the start, but during training we were encouraged to use any utensils we could find such as a fork or a bucket in place of a watering can," she explained. Furthermore, she was also taught new recipe to learn to cook the vegetables she was less familiar with. She now has plans to extend her garden to be able to grow vegetables for sale. "I now save money with the garden and hopefully, I will be able to make money from it in the future," she added.

Water harvesting: a simple technology to guarantee regular water supply

In the Makhundlu community, another of the communities in the development area of the LUSIP-GEF Project, the project trained beneficiaries on water harvesting technologies and help them construct their own water harvesting tanks for their house. The communities became interested as they were facing a number of challenges related to water scarcity such as drying up of boreholes, inability to cope with electricity costs for pumping, unwillingness to pay for electricity and breakdown of pumps.

Out of a total of 58 households in the community, 30 of them decided to get together to construct water harvesting tanks for each other.  To gauge the community's commitment to the project, they were told that the material to construct each tank would cost E600 (US$75). Labour costs for the construction would cost about E1750 (US$218). They decided that they would each contribute a small amount to construct the first tank. After completing the first tank, they would again raise money to build the next tank until all the 30 tanks were built. The labour would be shared equally between them. On seeing the community's commitment, the project pledged to contribute up to 25 percent of the cost for each participating household.



Building a water storage tank
© LUSIP project/Swaziland

The circular shaped tanks are made of concrete reinforced with a mesh fence and placed on a slab using locally available material such as stone or brick. On average, they have a capacity of 1,700 litres which means that they can supply a household with clean water for a couple of weeks with an estimated consumption of 25 litres per day per person. However, with good water conservation practices, stored water can be available for longer.

Women from the community are very enthusiastic about the water storage tanks as they no longer need to spend so much time fetching water. They are saying that it will also improve hygiene as they will now be able to wash more often. Before, they would keep the water for priority needs such as drinking and cooking rather than bathe. They will also be able to start a vegetable garden with the regular water supply they can benefit from. "I want to start a vegetable garden for sale. With the money I get, I will buy a few commodities and raise more money to build another tank because my aim is to have three of them," said one of the women from the Makhundlu community.

For more information, please contact:

Stephen Twomlow, Climate Change Expert, IFAD

Lynn Kota, LUSIP Project Coordinator

Ethiopia: Empowering youth through irrigation



A farmer sprays onions in Hiyana irrigation scheme
© Wairimu Mburathi/IFAD

With the rising trend of urban migration in Ethiopia and the pressing need to feed a growing population, it is more important than ever to give young people opportunities to engage in farming. Youth under-employment is a serious challenge in both rural and urban areas with an increasing number of young people having limited opportunities and often being unemployed or owning few assets. To this end, the Participatory Small Scale Irrigation Development Programme (PASIDP), supported by IFAD, has targeted youth in particular, offering them the opportunity to pursue farming as a business to improve their livelihood and invest into new opportunities.

Through a nationwide land registration initiative launched by the Government of Ethiopia, landless youth were given the opportunity to access land by applying for communal plots. Members of the Hiyana irrigation scheme supported by PASIDP in the Enderta Woreda (district) in the northern region of Tigray, also benefited from this Government-led initiative. This 44 hectares irrigation scheme includes 88 households, of which 14 are women headed households, many of whom are farming their own land for the first time.

Initially, this community was only able to irrigate 15 hectares of farm land. Constructing the river diversion has enabled the expansion of irrigated farmland to 35 hectares which were allocated through the new land registration system. The programme has also provided seedlings and extension support to assist farmers to grow new crops and introduce high yielding varieties developed at the University of Mekele on to their farms.

Abrehan Girmay, one of the members of the scheme, was allocated a 0.5 hectare plot and is now able to pursue agriculture as a sustainable livelihood to generate income to meet the needs of his family. Previously, Abrehan used to work as a mason taking whatever construction work he could find in Mekele, the closest city 30km away. Earning 7 birr (USD0.35) an hour, he was not guaranteed to find a full day's worth of work and struggled to make ends meet.

Since the scheme became operational in December 2012, he has earned 27,000 birr (USD 1,356) from several harvests and is expecting to sell even more this season. “I am able to provide for my family and send my two children to school with income from the farm. We are able to batter some of our vegetables for maize with other farmers and if I need additional money to get by, I work as a paid labourer on surrounding farms," said Abrehan. "I do not have to worry if I am going to find work for the day as I used to when I was a construction worker.” Farmers hire paid labourers if they need assistance to till or harvest their land paying them 50-80 birr (US$2.50- US$4) per day.  As land certificates entitle both husband and wife to an equal share of the land, this has had a positive impact on women’s engagement in household decision. Abrehan noted that his wife has an equal role in decision making on farming activities as they make joint decisions on what to plant and where to market their harvest.



Amina Ismal shows the cost of construction of the 86 hectare irrigation scheme in Betho, Ethiopia
© Wairimu Mburathi/IFAD

Farming as a Business
A little further south in the Amhara region, in other projects supported by PASIDP, youth involvement in farming is also on the increase after land allocation as well as the adoption of irrigation technologies. For instance, in the Golina irrigation scheme, located in the Kobo Woreda, Sashituu Sisay Zeleka, a lady in her early twenties who owns two 0.25 hectare plots, explained how adopting irrigation technologies is beneficial to her farming activities. "Growing sorghum, I could only harvest twice a year according to the rainy season, generating 150kg of teff and 450kg of sorghum." said Sashituu. “I kept the majority of my harvest for household consumption and sold around 25% in the market. As my husband works as a soldier and is away from home, I was forced to rely on my extended family for support to take care of my son. Now that I am able to irrigate my farm, I am able to harvest three times a year, and I have introduced onions and maize onto my farm,” she added.

Sashituu has increased her yields to 1100kg of sorghum and 1200kg of teff. Saving between 100 and 200 birr (USD 5 -10) every 3 months for a couple of years, she has been able to purchase improved seeds and fertilizer (Urea and DAP) to plant on one of her plots.  She continues to grow teff, sorghum and onions on the second plot. Within a year she has been able to borrow money from the Amhara Credit and Savings Union to buy two oxen ploughs (one oxen cost 12,000 birr). “I would like now to pay serious attention to my farm as my farm is my business. I want to solely pursue farming and I would like to start working independently”, without relying on seedlings distributed by the Water User Association (WUA) managing the irrigation scheme she is part of. “Farming is about timing and if I work efficiently and be the first to harvest, I can make a better profit,” she said. Sashituu hopes to continue saving so that she can buy an oxen pulled cart to take her produce to the market. Currently she transports her harvest to the market using a kobo, public transport where they charge her 10 birr to carry a sack.

Rising Young Leaders
WUAs are the standard organisation managing irrigation schemes; they are run by the users of the scheme. As part of its work, PASIDP established WUAs in each irrigation scheme before construction to ensure community input to structural design and to create a mechanism of ownership, so that the community may maintain the irrigation scheme once it becomes operational. Within traditional irrigation schemes, elders were appointed to determine water distribution and resolve any rising issues. In the irrigation schemes supported by PASIDP, a set of general criteria were agreed upon to elect the committee members: candidates have to be model farmers, literate and community leaders. Such criteria have empowered youth and women to assume positions of leadership within a WUA.

In Betho kebele within the Oromo Special administrative zone in Oromiya region, the WUA of the 86 hectare Betho irrigation scheme elected Amina Ismal, a Kindergarten teacher, as the secretary of the WUA committee. Mohamed Ali, the chairperson of the WUA said that Amina was selected due to her authoritative position as a mentor responsible for children’s education. Amina is the only literate member on the WUA committee and this is an advantage as she is able to take account of the finances, effectively record meeting minutes and formally communicate in writing if required.  Moreover, she was chosen to engage women in the WUA’s activities. “Sometimes women don’t participate in the WUA activities because they are occupied doing household tasks. She is energetic and is able to convince and mobilize women to attend meetings and contribute to construction activities for the irrigation scheme” Mohamed Ali told us. The members of the WUA committee said that as a result, women have become more engaged in the WUA and are beginning to raise questions about the development activities they will undertake.

For more information, please contact:

Robson Mutandi, Country Director for Ethiopia, IFAD
Dagmawi Habte-Selassie, Country Office Consultant, Ethiopia, IFAD
Wairimu, Mburathi, Knowledge Management Consultant, Ethiopia, IFAD,

Malawi: Irrigation as a pillar for food security and improved nutrition



Maggie Chisi from the Limphasa scheme, using a conoweeder
© K.Cherif/IFAD

IFAD is supporting the government of Malawi on the rehabilitation, construction and promotion of irrigation schemes to address the challenges of low productivity and profitability of Malawi’s agriculture. Most smallholder farmers in Malawi remain food insecure due to an overly dependence on rain-fed agriculture. Only one crop is grown annually with consequent underemployment during the dry season. The low production and productivity lead to persistent food insecurity, lack of diversification in farming systems (70-80% is maize), poor dietary intake, poverty and consequent high prevalence of under nutrition.

IFAD investment in the irrigation systems is well fitted into the focus areas of Malawi adopted Agricultural Sector Wide Approach (ASWAp): (a) food security and risk management; (b) agribusiness and market development; and (c) sustainable land and water management. Also, IFAD support to irrigated agriculture in Malawi has contributed to an increased number of farmers adopting improved technologies (irrigation farming, crop diversification and use of improved seeds and fertilizers), household income for potential increase availability and access to food varieties for dietary diversity and adequate consumption. 

Irrigation, Rural Livelihoods and Agricultural Development Programme (IRLADP)



One of the SRI field at Nkhate irrigation scheme in Chikwawa
© K.Cherif/IFAD

IFAD in partnership with the World Bank supported the rehabilitation of government schemes in Malawi through the Irrigation, Rural Livelihoods and Agricultural Development Project (IRLADP) from 2005/06 to 2011/12.
IRLADP implementation was rated satisfactory in terms of beneficiary impact assessment. IRLADP contributed to a reduction in the proportion of poor beneficiary households by 21%, increased agricultural productivity by 68% and improvement in household incomes by 50%. The increased income was mostly spent on food (37%), which is expected of households that are generally poor and food insecure. The beneficiaries indicated household food insecurity (77.8%) as their most pressing need.

The IRLADP project introduced a System of Rice Intensification (SRI) to improve food sufficiency at household level. SRI is an innovative agricultural practice in response to the growing demand for food and the ever increasing scarcity of natural resources like land and water. To that end, the project trained over 5,000 farmers in irrigation schemes to adopt the SRI technology as one way of ensuring optimum utilization of the irrigation schemes and improve their yield output using less farm inputs. “This season, because of using SRI practices, I expect to harvest nine bags of 50 kg each on a 0.1 ha plot (4,500 kg /ha) where previously I used to harvest four bags of 50 kg each (2,500 kg /ha)”, said Mrs Chisi, a farmer who adopted the technology. She added that with the proceedings from rice sales, she hopes to buy a bicycle to ease her mobility and save some money to build a house next year after harvesting and selling the produce. 



Two farmers members of the Likangala irrigation scheme
© K.Cherif/IFAD

SRI principles include transplanting rice seedlings at a much younger age, with only a single seedling to be planted per hill instead of a handful of seedlings at each hill.  The space between plants is wider apart and in a square pattern of 23x23 cm instead of the conventional continuous flood irrigation. Also, specific weeding tools such as the cono weeder promote aeration in the soil as it cuts rice roots which in turn induce the development of new tillers around a particular hill. Farmers who used cono weeders during 2013/2014 rainy season counted 45 to 60 tillers from one seedling instead of 4 to 7 tillers when more seedlings were planted using the conventional methods. “We did not believe that one seedling could produce over 45 to 60 seedlings from a single seedling planted, our friends thought we were going back  at night to the fields and planting some seedlings”, explained Mr  G.Njala of Likangala irrigation scheme in Zomba and Mr Alhaji Chale of Lifuwu irrigation scheme.

PRIDE: The Way Forward
Due to the fact that an increase in income and access to food do not guarantee good nutrition, the successes reported in IRLADP aim to be tracked and linked to positive nutritional outcomes in the next phase, Programme for Rural Irrigation Development (PRIDE). The main thrust of PRIDE is to upgrade irrigation schemes in order to enable the smallholder farmers transit from low value to high value crops. The implementation of PRIDE aims to improve the livelihood of beneficiaries and get them out of poverty with good nutritional status.

In view of building and scaling-up the positive impact of the previous project (IRLADP), this new project (PRIDE) is committed to incorporating nutrition concerns from the stage of design through implementation. The components of PRIDE will be complemented with activities focusing on:(i) dietary diversity; (ii) women workload; (iii) nutrition knowledge and sensitization on food processing, storage and utilisation; (iv) and collaboration with other development partners for maximizing impact and generating synergies in agriculture for nutrition programs. Making PRIDE a nutrition-sensitive intervention will generate an evidence base linkage of agriculture to nutritional outcomes.

For more information, please contact:
Abla Benhammouche, Country Programme Manager for Malawi, IFAD
Karima Cherif, former Programme Communication Development and Monitoring & Evaluation Consultant, Zambia, IFAD

Zambia: A showcase of sustainable irrigation systems



Katrina Kahuli showing her cabbage field
© D.Magada/IFAD

Implementing projects which will continue to function in a sustainable manner over the long-term can be a challenge for development organisations. Often, projects ran into unexpected problems which the local communities can find a struggle.

In Zambia, the Nabuyani irrigation scheme put in place under the Smallholder Irrigation Water Users Programme (SIWUP), supported by IFAD, has become a showcase of success in terms of sustainability. "During the appraisal of the project, we looked at many aspects, including its sustainability," explained Dick Siame, former coordinator of the project. "So we tried to put in place an organisation that would function over the long term."

As part of the project, which was implemented in the late 1990s in the Southern part of Zambia to provide water for livestock during the dry season from July to November, IFAD invested US$25,000 to build an irrigation system to supply 6 hectares (ha) of land downstream from a dam at Nabyani village. The system was put in place in cooperation with the World Bank which itself invested US$30,000 to build the dam. The initial purpose was to water livestock during the dry season when the dambo (the shallow wetland system in Southern Africa) dried up and animals had to be trekked to the Kafue River several kilometres away from the village. The scheme also allowed farmers to start vegetable gardens as well as fish farming. 

Farmers who decided to join the scheme were given a plot of communal land and in return they had to contribute to the building of the scheme as well as its maintenance.  "From the start the local community was heavily involved in the construction of the dam and irrigation system," explained Dick Siame, "farmers had to bring in their labour if they wanted to be part of the project. If they were given a plot of land, it was only natural that they contributed in return."



The irrigation dam in Nabyani village in Zambia
© D.Magada/IFAD

Strict criteria were defined to select the farmers who could join the scheme. For instance, from the start, they had to be willing to work, make bricks and bring sand. When given a piece of land, they had to abide by the constitution of the Water Users Association (WUA), the association established to manage the irrigation scheme. They had to be able to produce and contribute to the WUA. It was quantified that the community contributed up to 25 percent of the value of the investment over a period of six months. "We brought in a lot of legality and that helped ensure the sustainability of the project," added Siame.

On the other hand, the project showed a lot of flexibility from the design stage with for instance a technical review to better adapt to the local environment. "At first, it was planned to build a shallow well downstream with a command pump. However, after the first trial, it was noticed that the water upstream had dried up, so IFAD decided to modify the system to make it more compatible with the local environment, and the decision was taken to have a gravity-based irrigation scheme," explained Mr. Juunza, the Irrigation Engineer from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. As it stands, the dam was built to create a water reservoir for rain water harvesting. The water is released downstream to the vegetable plots through a system of syphons whereby the water goes up from the reservoir and downstream to the plots, purely working on the principle of gravity. "That was the best decision for the place," said Mr. Juunza. Currently, the water runs at seven litres per second per pipe, so when of all four syphons work together, the flow goes up to 28 litres per second. The reservoir itself has a capacity of 130,000 cubic metres of water, which means that there is water throughout the year. "The farmers have learnt to use the system efficiently by only opening the syphons when needed, to avoid wasting water," he added.

In terms of organisational structure, a number of committees were established for the running of the scheme. Hence, one committee is in charge of the technical maintenance of the scheme like opening and closing the syphons to prevent water waste and leakage, another committee looks after the dam and water reservoir including the right to fish while the main committee overlooks all matters related to the scheme and the community of users.  In addition, the association has a bank account with sufficient funds to repair the system when needed.

Thriving vegetable plots
Thanks to this well-functioning irrigation scheme, local farmers who are members of the WUA have been growing vegetables such as cabbage, tomatoes and onions two or three times a year and are selling them to their local market. They were also taught to negotiate to better sell their crop and enter into trading contracts through a marketing committee. The association counts 60 farmers, including 32 men and 28 women.

Katrine Kahuli is one of the farmers in the association. She has a 35x50 metres plot where she grows alternatively cabbage and onion. She sells her cabbage by bags of 25 heads to a trader as she finds the individual marketing too difficult. "If I sell individually, I may sell only one head per day which is too little. So I prefer to sell by bags," she said. She sells a bag for 30 kwachas. By the end of the cabbage season, her earnings amount to 1,200 kwachas from which she needs to deduct 500 kwachas for the purchase of inputs, so she is left with a 700 kwachas profit per season. "Cabbage is easy to grow, I can harvest 40 to 50 bags three times per year with the irrigation," she added. At the time of visit, she had about 1400 healthy heads of cabbage in her field. She feels that her life and that of her family have really improved since she joined the scheme. "I live a good life now, we have plenty to eat and I can afford to buy other goods," she said.



Pond for fish farming
© D.Magada/IFAD

Taking it a step further with fish farming
Farmers from the Nabuyani scheme did not stop at vegetable growing, but started to farm fish as a way of further improving their income. Fish farming is relatively new to Zambia; it was introduced a few decades ago in the northern part of the country and is now being expanded to the southern region. It was started in 2011 by a handful of farmers who received training to dig a pond to farm river and lake fish such as tilapia.

"Fish farming is encouraged wherever there are irrigation schemes. It is an additional source of income as well as a way to provide proteins and therefore better nutrition to the families," commented Dick Siame. The fish ponds themselves are located downstream from the irrigation scheme so as to receive the waste water from the crop and therefore the nutrients for the fish. "Some of the rotten plants end up in the fish pond which is actually very good for the fish to feed on," said one of the fish farmers who started three years previously. "Feeding fish is easy, I give the left over from home, such as maize, which is not costly," he added. He said that he expects to have 200 kilos of fish to sell from the next harvest which will bring him about 2000 Kwachas. "Now I want to build a bigger pond to stock more fish," he added.

For more information, please contact:
Abla Benhammouche, Country Director for Zambia, IFAD
Karima Cherif, former Programme Communication Development and Monitoring & Evaluation Consultant, Zambia, IFAD

Madagascar: Drip irrigation, a technology adapted to the local environment



Pumping water with a manual pump
© IFAD Office in Madagascar

The project on Scaling-Up Micro-Irrigation Systems (SCAMPIS) in Madagascar started in 2009 with the support of a grant from IFAD's Policy and Technical Advisory Division (PTA). Its initial objective was to improve water availability and water management for 10,000 farmers through the implementation of micro-irrigation systems, and thus lead to better agricultural productivity in the target areas.

Drip irrigation is an irrigation method that saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either onto the soil surface or directly onto the root zone, through a network of valves, pipes and emitters. It is done with the help of narrow tubes that deliver water directly to the base of the plant. Drip irrigation technology is one alternative that improves the distribution of water (with the help of irrigation ramps) and also reduces the amount of water that is brought to each plant. The efficiency and cost-effectiveness of drip irrigation are notably superior to gravity irrigation.

As part of the Grant Agreement, the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Vétérinaires Sans Frontières-Centre International pour la Coopération de le Développement Agricole (Veterinarians without Borders – International Center for Agricultural Development Cooperation) was mandated by IFAD to put in place the SCAMPIS project and promote drip irrigation kits on a larger scale.

Initially, it was implemented in two selected regions of two of IFAD's projects in Madagascar, namely in the regions of Anamalanga and Vakinankaratra in the High-Plateau under the Support Programme to Rural Microenterprise Poles and Regional Economies (Programme de Soutien aux Pôles de Micro-Entreprises Rurales et aux Economies Régionales de Madagascar- PROSPERER) and in the regions of Analanjirofo and Atsinanana on the Eastern Coast under the Rural Income Promotion Project (Programme de Promotion des Revenus Ruraux-PPRR). These regions were chosen because farmers were growing mainly vegetables, which were viewed as the best entry point to put in place micro-irrigation kits. A year later, in view of its initial success, the project was extended to another region of the High-Plateau, where the irrigation kits were also introduced.



Watering a field with drip irrigation
© IFAD Office in Madagascar

Successful value-chain strategy
From the start, SCAMPIS' strategy focused on developing a local value chain for the production of micro-irrigation kits adapted to the local context, targeting in particular small scale vulnerable vegetable growers. The sector was chosen because of the high number and fragmentation of small producers, the low level of mechanization and the lack of sound water resource management, as well as the price volatility of products.
While supporting vulnerable farmers with the introduction of the micro-irrigation kits, the SCAMPIS project aimed in parallel at developing a local business for the production and distribution of these kits to better adapt them to local needs. Initially the kits, made of a pedal pump, tubes and valves, had to be imported but soon after the start, a local industry developed around the technology and adapted it to the local environment (changes in the PVC tubes for instance, locally made pumps). In order to keep the cost as low as possible, different drip kits were devised for land areas of 50m2, 100m2 and 200m2. Water pressure is regulated from an elevated reservoir that is fed by a pedal pump. One reservoir can feed several drip kits. In theory, a farmer can gradually extend the irrigated surface by purchasing additional kits, which can be used individually or collectively. The more kits that can be fed by one water source, the more cost-effective the system is.

In the SCAMPIS zone alone, by mid-2012, a total of 4694 families benefited from the technology, but that number rose to 9312 families when the other project zones were taken into account, according to SCAMPIS 2012 Final Report. The SCAMPIS project succeeded in answering two critical but distinct needs: those of poor farmers (women in particular) to create a new means of income and livelihood; and those of farmers in water-scarce areas to cope with the scarcity. The best examples are to be found in the south (AROPA intervention area) where micro-irrigation groups (mostly poor women vegetable growers) created by the project have experienced major improvements in their cash income and household food and nutrition security.

For more information, please contact:
Haingo Rakotondratsima, Country Programme Officer, c/o Ministère de l’Agriculture, de l'Elevage et de la Pêche
Audrey Nepveu de Villemarceau, Technical Expert on Water, IFAD

Tanzania: Water Works



Cecilia William used to depend on irregular rainfall to irrigate her crops. As a single mother, she struggled to grow enough to feed her family. Now an irrigation system has changed her life. With regular access to water, Cecilia is not only a successful farmer, but she is now an innovative entrepreneur.