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06.06.2006 Business & Finance

Drip Irrigation, A Method Worth Trying

By Graphic

Agriculture will continue to play a very dominant role in the national economies of most sub-Saharan countries for some time to come.

It is estimated that agriculture accounts for approximately 21 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in sub-Saharan Africa.

The contribution of the agricultural sector to overall GDP in Ghana is projected at 41.4 per cent for the year 2006, according to the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government.

Again, food and beverages constitute about 52 per cent of the items which are used in measuring the consumer price index (CPI) in Ghana.

When it comes to food production, women contribute between 60 and 80 per cent of the labour used to produce food, both for household consumption and for sale in sub-Saharan Africa.

If agriculture can be used as the means of accelerating growth and employment in most African countries, then a lot of effort must be put in to transform the industry through the appropriate use of technology which is inexpensive to operate, maintain and utilise.

Unfortunately, irrigation as a pillar of the development of agriculture has not been taken very seriously in most African countries, thereby depriving those countries of the needed food and livestock.

In Ghana, contracts have been awarded for the rehabilitation of some irrigation schemes, namely, the Weija Irrigation Project in the Greater Accra Region, the Aveyime, Afife and Kpando Torkor projects in the Volta Region, the Sata and Akumadan projects in the Ashanti Region, the Tanoso and Subinja projects in the Brong Ahafo Region and the Bolgatanga Irrigation Project in the Upper East Region.

Again, feasibility studies have been conducted to bring about 20,000 hectares of the Accra Plains under cultivation through irrigation.

But the question is, do we really need expensive and sophisticated irrigation projects to improve the level of agriculture in the country?

Burkina Faso has developed a very simple and uncomplicated method of drip irrigation to make the land green and improve the level of agricultural production.

This method is so simple that maintaining it costs virtually nothing. The technology consists of nothing more than an earthenware pot with five to six horizontal holes buried in the soil, with the holes facing the roots of the plant.

The pot is filled with water and neatly covered. This enables small amounts of water to drip to the plant root zone.

This means that water will be applied frequently, often daily, to maintain a favourable soil moisture condition and prevent moisture stress in the plant.

The pots can be filled at least once or twice a week, depending on the texture of the soil and the type of plant.
If the pot is well positioned, water will be distributed as closely as possible to the plant root system.

This method of irrigation requires less water and labour than other methods. Top soils will not be washed away, as smaller water sources can be used to fill the pots from time to time.

Again, there is likely to be a higher degree of water control, as one is not likely to use water all day round. Furthermore, plants can be supplied with more precise amounts of water.

When compared with other systems of irrigation, drip water will lead to less soil and wind erosion as it can be applied under a wide range of field conditions.

If one uses the pots as a means of drip irrigation, one should ensure that they are always neatly closed to prevent rodents, reptiles and insects from making them their place of abode.

The pots must always be clean and neat to prevent the clogging of the small emission holes. It is high time the country moved away from high technological services which are very difficult to maintain.

Using appropriate technology such as pots for drip irrigation can be easily handled and maintained by peasant farmers.

More jobs will also be created for pot producers as the market will be readily available for the produce.

The Irrigation Development Authority (IDA) should seriously consider the use of these pots so that the issue of irrigation can become affordable to poor and peasant farmers.