Experts in from the water sector have aired concerns that for agriculture to develop the government, institutions, and other stakeholders must work out modalities that would ensure proper water management at all levels, new technology applications in the irrigation sector and improved infrastructures.
In their contributions at the closing session of the dialogue on Agriculture water solutions project commonly knows as Ag-Water Solution in Morogoro, over the weekend, they said that water-lifting technologies, water reservoirs, drip irrigation, ground water use, rainwater harvesting and on farm water storage were a must have for a progressive agricultural sector. Agriculture has contributed significantly to the national economy and provided a means of wellbeing for small scale farmers.
Prof. Didas Kimaro from the department of Agriculture, engineering and Land planning at Sokoine University of Agriculture advised on the need to adopt traditional water management systems which are generally overlooked in favor of ‘formal management of water system’. He reminded attendees of the recent past when such systems were strong and proved effective water management solutions.
Wami-Ruvu Basin water officer, Praxeda Karugendo, observed that emphasis is been directed towards investment in development projects but little attention if any is focused on the management of water sources without which, according to her, other projects would ‘never have seen the light of the day’.
Prof. Valerian Silayo, Sokoine University of Agriculture, called for the new irrigation techniques to go hand in hand with proper fertilizer application methods if the nation is to enjoy any increased productivity.
Earlier, in his opening remarks, Director of Agriculture mechanization in the Ministry, Eng. Richard Shetto, cautioned that the current situation, where there is heavy reliance on rain fed production which in turn is backed by poor technology, is not, “an efficient way to promote agriculture”.
Eng. Shetto, speaking on behalf of Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Eng. Futakamba Mbogo, explained that government has placed priority on promotion of ‘water saving techniques’ such as use of, sprinklers, drip irrigation systems and improvement of existing traditional irrigation schemes, including the construction of new irrigation systems, especially in ‘high development potential areas’.
“We have to increase the number of irrigation professionals and raise the capacity of small farmers to invest in the necessary infrastructure for their irrigation systems…”
Mbogo admitted that the government has encountered a number of challenges which must be addressed if the country is to tackle food insecurity and embark on poverty reduction projects effectively.
He offered examples of the challenges as, low or minimal investment in irrigation and water storage research, inadequate investment for irrigation, low and slow infrastructure development.
He called on the private sector to step up to the challenge and invest in irrigation schemes. Mbogo believes that collaboration and the formation of public-private partnership is the only way challenges facing the agriculture sector will be met.
The Ag-Water Solution project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and aims at unlocking the potential of smallholder farming by focusing on ground works like the said irrigation scheme projects but also supports financial institutions and proper business models.
The project is spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperative, it is a collaborative work of researchers, policy makers, investors and it is implemented at international, national and regional levels in five countries in Africa; Tanzania, Zambia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and two states in India, Madtrya Paradesh and West Bengal.
On his part, the project national dialogue facilitator, Dr. Victor Kongo who works with the Stockholm environment institute, said that, interaction amongst stakeholders has made the project very successful despite limited funding, hence there is need to increase financial resources and continue implementing the projects if they are to achieve the desired goals.