Thursday, 26 May 2016

Exciting and surprising outputs have emerged from an irrigation project in Africa

Liz Ogutu, ACIAR’s Regional Manager in Africa, recently visited Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to engage with farmers and discuss the impacts of an irrigation project that has been going since 2013. The project aims to increase the productivity of irrigation in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to enhance food security. Below, Liz reflects on her trip. 

On 30 March 2016 we gathered at the ward offices to meet farmers of the Kiwere Irrigation scheme in Tanzania. In our team, we had Jamie, Henning, Makarius, Marna, Thembi and myself. We were there to engage farmers and to have a discussion about the project that has been ongoing at the scheme since 2013. The project, “Increasing irrigation water productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through on-farm monitoring, adaptive management and agricultural innovation platforms,” is led by the Australian National University’s Jamie Pittock. As with most ACIAR-funded projects, it was time for project review and this was led by Marna de Lange, Managing Director, Socio-Technical Interfacing Consulting CC.
The mill built by the farmers in Magozi, Tanzania. Photo: Liz Ogutu, ACIAR
It was clear the farmers participating in the project were thrilled to have the soil and water monitoring tools promoted by the project. They had named the water sensor “Kinyonga,” Kiswahili for chameleon, and “Bendera” (the flag) was the name chosen for the wet front detector. The team was happy to be reassured that the farmers had realised benefits by irrigating less – this was already known from previous team visits and reports from the project - but additionally, encouraging statements were made by next users (farmers who were not part of the project), who indicated they were ready to buy the equipment and told us how much they were willing to spend. One particular farmer said she could see herself training others on better irrigation practices.
The warehouse in Magozi. Photo: Liz Ogutu, ACIAR
When our team visited another irrigation site in Magozi, Tanzania, the farmers had clearly taken in the training and collective action activities positively. In that location, the farmers were not using the “Kinyonga,” because they farm rice, but they had appreciated the fact that their soils were not fertile and were keen to use close-to-precision application on their farms. Though this was an expected output, we were pleased to learn that when the government of Tanzania offered to install a milling plant, the farmers at the scheme decided to use their rice profits and their labour to build the housing for the mill. They were also provided six combine harvesters for which they built a shed, and also came up with a costing and revenue sharing system. It is therefore not surprising that the government then decided to build a warehouse for the farmers, which will ultimately incorporate a warehouse receipting system. All these developments, the farmers said, were as a result of having an Agricultural Irrigation Platform (AIP) that allowed them to convene and discuss issues concerning the scheme, especially when an emergency occurred. We cannot directly attribute all these positive outcomes to the project but it was exciting for us that the farmers thought so.

In Tanzania, the project team used GIS services to map the entire irrigation schemes; we never imagined the maps would, among other benefits, resolve conflicts around levy and revenue shares.

At the irrigation scheme in Silalatshani, Vilabusi in Zimbabwe, the farmers had decided that people should ideally not have to travel from other countries to assist them when there were things they could do themselves, and so had decided to rehabilitate their AIP meeting places. Due to the AIPs they chose new crops to try out, engaged the private sector and became price negotiators for their grain. Further, as Zimbabwe faces drought, they chose to employ dryland farmers in their plots so that these farmers could earn money to feed their families.
The woman at the forefront is a dryland farmer employed at a plot in the Silalatshani Irrigation Scheme. She's seen here harvesting sweetpotato. Photo: Liz Ogutu, ACIAR
As the project goes through its last 15 months, we hope to witness other exciting and surprising outputs, capture lessons learnt, and share this with other researchers working with irrigators in East and Southern Africa.

By Liz Ogutu, Regional Manager Africa, ACIAR

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