Notes to broadcasters on small-scale irrigation

    | September 3, 2012

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    The phrase “irrigation scheme” can conjure up visions of immense government-built structures or elaborate equipment on large-scale farms. But the report mentioned in this week’s story – entitled “Water for wealth and food security: Supporting farmer-driven investments in agricultural water management” and published by the International Water Management Institute based on a three-year study – describes the accessibility and importance of small-scale, farmer-run irrigation schemes. The report summarizes how small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are taking charge of water supplies for their crops and animals by investing in simple and effective options. In this way, they are creating more resilient livelihoods which are less susceptible to uncertain rainfall patterns.

    Follow these links to read the report and its supporting documents:

    Synopsis report:

    Media release:

    Backgrounder (includes the story of Veronica Sianchenga as well as a Ghanaian farmer named Edward Kofi Ahiabor who has expanded his farm using petrol-driven water pumps):

    Slide show:

    Q & A with Meredith Giordano, research director at the International Water Management Institute, published by Inter Press Service:

    Past Farm Radio Weekly stories have looked at small-scale irrigation methods and how they can help farmers boost their food security and income:

    -Zimbabwe: Irrigation schemes bring hope for women in Insiza district (FRW 193, March 2012):
    -Zimbabwe: Collecting rainfall in the city (FRW 141, January 2011):
    -Senegal: Drip irrigation boosts dry season production (FRW 30, July 2008):
    – Zimbabwe: Livestock farmers adapt to new climate (FRW 27, June 2008):
    -Kenya: Rainwater harvesting improves rural livelihoods (FRW 15, March 2008):

    Farm Radio International has published a number of scripts on water topics, including irrigation. You can browse them at:

    You may wish to develop a program that looks at appropriate irrigation options for farmers, especially if you broadcast to areas where water is scarce. Try to find farmers or farmers’ groups with successful irrigation activities. Present a range of examples − from simple ideas like using watering cans to conserve water, to larger-scale initiatives like river diversion schemes. Research the advantages and disadvantages of each, and explain that different irrigation techniques suit different situations.

    Consider what information farmers need when planning to irrigate their farms. For example, is a watering can all that is needed? Do farmers have the financial resources to invest in drip irrigation? Can water be pumped from a stream? How? Is it feasible to invest in rainwater harvesting? You might want to interview irrigation specialists who can outline some of the many technical factors to consider.