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Notes to broadcasters on irrigation

Irrigation has been promoted as a method to raise African small-scale farmers’ yields and income. Yet only a small percentage of potential farmland in Africa is currently irrigated. The reasons are complex, with one being cost. In this week’s script, a farmers’ co-operative maintains an irrigation scheme. Collective irrigation projects like this lower the cost per farmer.

Many types of irrigation are suitable for small-scale farmers, including drip irrigation, spate irrigation, furrow irrigation, and many other methods.

There are interesting perspectives on irrigation and African farming in this blog from Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa: http://blogs.worldbank.org/africacan/irrigation-and-climate-change [1]

KickStart is a non-profit organization which promotes pumps that are claimed to increase small-scale farmers’ ability to irrigate their crops and raise yields and income. See http://africanfarming.net/technology/water-a-irrigation/213-kickstart-pump-to-boost-africas-irrigation-capacity.html [2] & http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/AFRICAEXT/0,,contentMDK:22551667~pagePK:146736~piPK:146830~theSitePK:258644,00.html [3]

The NGO, Practical Action, has a section on its website devoted to irrigation, specifically drip irrigation and treadle pump irrigation: http://practicalaction.org/irrigation-techniques-1 [4]

Here’s a news story on a successful solar-powered drip irrigation system in West Africa: http://www.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/a-23-2010-01-10-voa2-84659447.html [5]

And here’s a story from Senegal on how using a pump can help irrigate farmland: http://africastories.usaid.gov/search_details.cfm?storyID=359&countryID=21&sectorID=0&yearID=5 [6]

Farm Radio International has published a number of scripts on water topics, including irrigation. You can browse them at: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/water.asp [7]

Farm Radio Weekly has done several stories on irrigated farming. See:

Zimbabwe: Irrigation schemes bring hope for women in Insiza district (FRW 193, March 2012). http://weekly.farmradio.org/2012/03/19/zimbabwe-irrigation-schemes-bring-hope-for-women-in-insiza-district-by-zenzele-ndebele-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-zimbabwe/ [8]

Senegal: Drip irrigation boosts dry season production (FRW 30, July 2008) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/07/28/senegal-drip-irrigation-boosts-dry-season-production-christian-science-monitor/ [9]

Zimbabwe: Livestock farmers adapt to new climate (FRW 27, June 2008). http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/06/30/zimbabwe-livestock-farmers-adapt-to-new-climate-zimbabwe-standard/ [10]

Do farmers in your area use irrigation? Ask NGOs and government agencies whether they sponsor or advise any farmer-run irrigation projects in your broadcast area. One of the challenges of irrigation projects is the cost. Perhaps farmers or others in your listening audience have found creative ways to design affordable and effective irrigation schemes. Find out about them. Farm Radio International would be happy to hear about them. Send us an email at farmradioweekly@farmradio.org, or go to Barza at http://www.barzaradio.com/ [11] and share it with our online community.

Here are some ideas to inspire you and help you plan your program on irrigation:

Are there large government-owned or government-sponsored irrigation schemes in your listening area? If so, talk to farmers and ask whether these work for them. What are the benefits, and what are the drawbacks.

If there are smaller farmer-run irrigation schemes, ask about the benefits and challenges to these.

What kind of irrigation is being practiced? Perhaps some small farmers have drip irrigation systems for high-value crops such as tomatoes? Perhaps some fruit trees are grown with irrigation? Ask farmers to share their experiences, good and bad.