Small scale irrigation
In the projects of Aqua Alimenta, small scale irrigation systems get installed. Irrigation means the artificial supply of water to areas suitable for agricultural use. Harvest per space gets increased substantially and the labour becomes substantially easier. The coordinators and partners of the project deploy systems specifically adapted to demand and terrain.
Simplified, three different system are employed: traditional furrow irrigation, hose watering and drip irrigation. Drilling wells can also be in scope of a project if water is hard to access.
Irrigation has decisive advantages in comparison to traditional agriculture. Small scale farm-ers become more independent from weather conditions and precipitation. Production gets increased and they can utilize their fields in dry periods. And, not least, they gain time. Sev-eral hours a week they would usually spend on the tedious carrying of water. Time for the community, for their families. Time for other economic activities which can give them a sec-ond source of income next to agriculture, thus reduce vulnerability.
What an irrigation system contains
What does an irrigation system need to do? On the one side, water has to be transported via suction lines to the fields, and on the side water has to be channelled to the plants via pres-sure and storage systems.
To make this transmission work smoothly a well thought through pumping system is required – in the projects of Aqua Alimenta this is Swiss-PEP. In addition, polymer suction tubes, normally a pump stand with water reservoir and – dependent on the system and local condi-tions- a garden hose with a shower head, underground water tubes with tap connections or a perforated tube network close to the ground.
Water to the plants! Three systems
Dependent on ground characteristics, topography, plant culture and water availability different methods are being employed. Aqua Alimenta uses four basic variations. The traditional furrow irrigation which is used primarily on the African continent, two sprinkler systems – usually via tube and shower head, and drip irrigation. Cost of installation and maintenance are gradually increasing from furrow to drip irrigation but the same is valid for efficiency.
Irrigation in the name of development cooperation has to do more than simply combining supply and demand. Aqua Alimenta aims for sustainable and responsible agriculture. The projects are supposed to bring social and economic value to the people. And not strain the environment more than necessary.
Muscle driven pumps make their users more independent from their energy supplier and are CO2 neutral. Water is supplied exclusively on demand and the precious resource is used efficiently.
Participation and Integration
The projects of Aqua Alimenta are targeted at participation. You only receive an irrigation system if you engage in installation and maintenance and, dependent on economic capability, participate in the financial cost. Property and participation strengthen responsibility.
Knowledge as a mean to independence
Farmers get involved in the installation of the systems and get educated in their application and maintenance. They can employ and maintain them independently. In several projects farmers gain practical knowledge about irrigated agriculture. Knowledge they can profit from for a lifetime.
Strengthen local structures
Aqua Alimenta uses materials that are locally available to produce the irrigation systems. Trained craftsmen are working in local workshops in every project of Aqua Alimenta – this creates jobs and strengthens the local economy and structures and creates independence from commercial suppliers.
Foster independence of small scale farmers in the long run
Small scale irrigation systems are extremely economical in procurement, maintenance and, as opposed to electric and diesel pumps, in operation. An external study in Tanzania showed that famer families can double their yields with reduced labour and thus, increase the security of their food supply.
Facts and figures
- 86% of rural poor in South and East Africa live in areas where ground conditions would be favourable for agricultural production.
- Only 20% of agricultural space is irrigated, but this space produces 40% of global yields.
- The irrigation potential in Africa alone amounts to 42.5 million hectare, with only 5.5 million being developed as of yet
- The world’s population has tripled in the 20th century, the water consumption increased six fold
- Drip irrigation reduces water consumption by 30-70% while increasing harvests by 20-60%