Irrigation farming has been touted as one of the basic ingredients to improved agriculture in the country.
The country has learnt from painful experience that irrigation pays higher dividends compared to the traditional approach of relying on rains, which are themselves becoming more unreliable due to the sweeping climate change as man tampers more and more with the ecosystem.
While irrigation farming is not new in the country, having been in practice for a long time, using traditional methods of digging canals to get water to farms, it is sad that the system and its infrastructure has in some places been left to die.
There is a widespread cry of shortage of water in various places, but it is also true that the reduced amounts of water can still deliver a lot through use of such efficient methods as drip irrigation.
Yet there is a possibility according to experts to revive the infrastructure, modify it to fit a more efficient distribution for greater benefit to the people.
While for example in Kilimanjaro, a single needs to use a lot of water for a number of hours to irrigate an acre or two of a banana farm, introducing drip irrigation could ensure that more people access the water simultenously without infringing each others’ rights, which sometimes leads to fights.
The challenge here then is for the experts to seriously find a way of implementing such technological measures to maximize benefits from the scarce resource, while also conserving it.
Much more needs to be done in especially reviving and protecting the water sources, many of which have been destroyed through indiscriminate tree felling.
Experts revisiting the issue have touched on an equally important aspect that today’s irrigation schemes must consider when embarking on implementation.
It is about management of water, which under the changing conditions is becoming a diminishing resource.
Diascussing agriculture water solutions project commonly known as Ag-Water Solution in Morogoro, over the weekend, the experts said 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.
They pointed to the need for water management in catchments areas which were practised in the past, but were being gradually ignored to the detriment of the communities’ needs.
They are calling for investment in the management of water sources without which, they point out other projects would ‘never have seen the light of the day’.
There is also the understanding that without investments; without empowering the smallholder farmers to acquire the technologies that efficiently use water, it will be a dream to expect irrigation farming to catch on.
Indeed the Director of Agriculture mechanisation in the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Engineer Richard Shetto stressed the same, when he told the experts: “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…”
We believe that if this is consistently implemented, it could deliver a huge difference in farm output and raise the living standards of the small farmers in the country.