Anne Mireille Nzouankeu | August 26, 2013
Henri Fotso walks purposefully towards a tap on the side of a water tank. He turns it slowly and water flows into a channel and then into his seedbed, where it irrigates his seedlings. For two years now, Mr. Fotso has grown tomatoes, cabbage and carrots continuously, thanks to this supply of water.
The source of the water is a swamp near Mbalmayo, a town 30 kilometres from Yaoundé, the capital city of Cameroon. Inspired by a similar irrigation system built by an NGO in another part of town, Mr. Fotso and other local farmers worked together to construct a water tank.
Mr. Fotso says: “We did it because we have suffered for two consecutive years. The rains came out of season and the dry season [has been] abnormally prolonged.”
He continues, “We built the reservoir in the form of pond, except that it has a concrete base into which we put some piping and a tap.”
When it rains heavily, the tank captures runoff water and fills up. When it is not raining, farmers simply open the tap to water their plants, and close it once the job is done.
Mr. Fotso explains that since the seasons became so disrupted, he does not know the best time for planting. But now that the water tank is in place, the problem is solved. He says, “Today I have water at my disposal all year, so I am taking the opportunity to produce continuous crops and harvests.”
The benefits from the reservoir are obvious. Mr. Fotso says, “I’m [no longer] worried about whether it rains or not. I am able to plan my crops without fear of losing my money or my time. ”
Isaac Njilah is a lecturer in geo-environmental science at the University of Yaoundé I. He talks about the changing climate in Mbalmayo: “There could be many factors involved … But … the massive deforestation in and around Mbalmayo may be one of the causes of the unseasonal weather patterns.”
Mbida Mbani is another farmer in Mbalmayo. He is distressed because he does not benefit from the irrigation systems. He says, “I also suffering from the changing climate, but the tank serves only a small area. For me to benefit, another tank would have to be built nearer to my fields.”
Mr. Fotso recognizes that one of the disadvantages of this kind of reservoir is that its benefits are localized. Only a small number of farmers whose fields are close to the tank stand to gain. He says, “We are trying to think of a solution which benefits the maximum amount of people ….”