16 July, Iringa Tanzania
Most government-run irrigation schemes in Africa have failed or are significantly under-performing, for a complex array of reasons. However, the research project (ACIAR FSC/2013/006), Increasing irrigation water productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through on-farm monitoring, adaptive management and agricultural innovation platforms (AIPs), found that AIPs combined with soil moisture and nutrient measuring can substantially increase crop yields and incomes of farmers, and make irrigation schemes more self-sustaining.
These improved yields, profits and problem-solving were achieved before infrastructure investments were made in Tanzania and Zimbabwe, thereby strengthening the likely benefit and sustainability of future infrastructure investments. The project enabled smallholder farmers and related stakeholders to achieve success in a traditionally difficult sector, which is also currently a top priority for African governments and international donors.
On the 16th of July, a follow-on research project four-year project (2017-2021) that will test how best to spread those findings beyond individual irrigation schemes to many other schemes and countries was launched in Iringa, Tanzania. The project team consists of a partnership of seven organisations: the Australian National University, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the University of South Australia, the National Institute for Irrigation in Mozambique, Ardhi University in Tanzania, the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Zimbabwe, and the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Policy Analysis Network.
The project aims to improve farmer livelihoods, equity and community management in smallholder irrigation schemes in southern Africa. Consequently, the objectives are to:
- determine how the package of AIPs and simple tools for water management can best be scaled up and out,
- identify what institutions lead to inequity among farmers in water supply and economic benefit from irrigation, schemes, and how this inequity can be reduced,
- develop irrigation policy options for governments and multilateral agencies, so that smallholder schemes can be more profitable, equitable and self-sustaining.
African researchers will be partnered closely with government irrigation agencies at the national and district scales to support and mentor changes in management. The project will engage with businesses that are important input suppliers or markets for crops, to promote mutually beneficial market-oriented partnerships with farmers.
The project is funded with support from the Australian Government via the Australian International Food Security Research Centre of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, with additional contributions from participating organisations.