(Excerpts from an Alertnet article by Jerome Bossuet : Climate Conversations – Micro-irrigation – with Bollywood backup – points to new way to beat hunger )
One reason many farmers face low yields and poverty is their difficult access to water, which forces them to rely mostly on rain-fed crops and exposes them to drought. The promotion of low-cost, small-scale irrigation equipment could be the solution.
The African market garden, developed by the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) together with the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC) shows how such irrigation is working for farmers in West Africa.
Farmers in this sub-Saharan region grow rain-fed staple crops like millet, but enjoy a rainy seasons lasting at most three to six months. Rainfall is highly variable, which makes their crops subject to climate risk and gives them very low returns.
Only 4 percent of cropland in sub-Saharan Africa is irrigated. In a region where staple crop harvests fail twice every five years, the use of micro irrigation has helped farmers get two crops each year and improve their incomes by planting high-value vegetables or fruits. Growing varied, nutrient-rich crops also helps diversify the diet of the farmers themselves.
The African market garden is a vegetable production kit that relies on low-pressure drip irrigation. Applying just enough water, drop by drop, at the roots of the plants can cut water use by 80 percent. With this precise irrigation, there are also fewer weeds and pests, meaning less labor, fertilizer and pesticide use.
Using lower-pressure irrigation also means using less energy to pump water. A recent assessment showed that yields can double with this irrigation system.
(Read the full article on Alertnet)
Picture courtesy ICRISAT