What do zebras and maize in Tanzania have in common? They both need water from the Great Ruaha River.
|Zebras and maize crops in Tanzania both need access to the Ruaha River|
The bigger picture is that the climate is one of extremes: there are 6 months of rains and 6 months of dry. In the dry season, crops cannot grow without intervention and so irrigation is used. Even in the wet season the rain is not evenly distributed, hence the need for and the government’s desire to expand the use of irrigation.
|Smallholder farmers need irrigation to grow crops such as rice (shown harvested on left) |
and onions (on right, a popular cash crop)
At the local level, the irrigation schemes have sustainability issues of water shortage (although this is not dire at the moment), but a more pressing issue is the management and maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure. Typical of problems around the world, the canals and offtakes are in poor condition and the government is not able to maintain them fully. The farmers themselves lack the income and management skills to maintain them.
|Weir and irrigation offtake |
on the Little Ruaha river
By Dr Evan Christen, ACIAR's Land & Water Resources Program Manager
ACIAR Project FSC/2013/006 Increasing irrigation water productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through on-farm monitoring, adaptive management and agricultural innovation platforms
ANU news item: Increasing irrigation water productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe
ACIAR's Land & Water Resources Program