Senegal: Drip irrigation boosts dry season production (Christian Science Monitor)

| July 28, 2008

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In Dap Dior, Senegal, a small group of villagers sits around a pile of freshly harvested groundnut plants. They chat as they pluck the groundnuts, occassionally stopping to snack on their harvest. This common scene came early this year thanks to a new irrigation system.

Dap Dior is one of several villages in Senegal experimenting with drip irrigation –
a technique that slowly delivers water to plant roots, minimizing the amount of water needed. . Farmers are using a low-cost model developed by an Israeli scientist familiar with the dryland conditions.

Fields using drip irrigation are marked by blue water barrels perched atop metre-high pedestals. Water must be pumped into the barrels using a fuel-powered generator. From there, gravity does the work. Water flows through pipes and into plastic inserts that are laid alongside crops.

Mamadou Diouf is one of the farmers who recently tried this new system. He used to wait until the rainy season to plant groundnut seeds. But this year, he is harvesting his groundnut crop early, around the time when he would normally plant it.

Planting during the dry season has many benefits. Mr. Diouf can sell his groundnut harvest before the market is flooded. When the rainy season arrives, he will cultivate another crop – tomatoes. The bottom line, he says, is that he will have more money to buy rice and vegetables for his family.

In a nearby village, farmers have been using the drip irrigation system for two years now. On average, farmers using the system have doubled their profits. Ibrahima Diop grows onions. His water costs have been cut in half since he switched from watering cans to drip irrigation. His fields are more productive, too. In a field where he used to harvest 550 kilograms of onions, he now reaps 800 kilograms.

But Mr. Diop explains that not all of his fellow villagers are eager to invest in the system. They have seen other irrigation systems fail, because they were too expensive to operate or difficult to maintain.

Others, however, are expanding their use of drip irrigation. The Israeli Embassy and local and international NGOs introduced the systems to the area. Now, some farmers are re-investing their higher earnings to purchase additional systems.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on drip irrigation