The drip irrigation technology (IFAD)

Read at : IFAD electronic newsletter

Madagascar: introducing the drip irrigation technology

Drip irrigation is an irrigation method that saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either onto the soil surface or directly onto the root zone, through a network of valves, pipes and emitters. It is done with the help of narrow tubes that deliver water directly to the base of the plant. Drip irrigation technology is one alternative that improves the distribution of water (with the help of irrigation ramps) and also reduces the amount of water that is brought to each plant. The efficiency and cost-effectiveness of drip irrigation are notably superior to more traditional irrigation methods.

The technology was first introduced in Madagascar by the Scaling Up Micro-Irrigation Systems project (SCAMPIS), which adapted the kit to the local environment and subsidized some of the equipment. SCAMPIS aims to promote water security for poor rural households. It was soon taken up by the Programme d’appui à la résilience aux crises alimentaires à Madagascar (PARECAM or Programme to Support Resilience to Food Crises in Madagascar), a programme funded by the EU Food Facility which was implemented through the IFAD-supported projects already in place on the island. Together PARECAM and SCAMPIS subsidized 85 per cent of the kits and 100 per cent of the pumps. A system costs approximately US$ 70 and a pump (which can be used for more than kit) costs around US$95, which remains rather costly for the poorest producers.

In order to keep the cost as low as possible, different drip kits were devised for land areas of 50m2, 100m2 and 200m2. Water pressure is regulated from an elevated reservoir that is fed by a pedal pump. One reservoir can feed several drip kits. In theory, a farmer can gradually extend the irrigated surface by purchasing additional kits, which can be used individually or collectively. The more kits that can be fed by one water source, the more cost-effective the system is.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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