Poor rainfall must push irrigation drive – thinktank

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 14:47:03 +0000

By MAILESI BANDA

THE Policy Monitoring and Research Centre, (PMRC) says the  current rainfall patterns  indicate that it is time for Zambia to consider investing in irrigation to ensure sustainability and improve productivity in the agriculture sector.

PMRC executive director, Bernadette Deka this is also realised in the Second National Agriculture Policy 2016 – 2020 whose first objective seeks to increase agriculture production, productivity and focuses on efficient water resources usage and promotion of mechanisation.

Ms. Deka explained that the implementation plan states that 3, 000 hectares is targeted for irrigation through the construction of communal irrigation schemes and dams.

She said the plan also sets out to train 1, 000 small-scale farmers and 100 staff in irrigation management system annually.  

“Initial investment in irrigation is costly but cost effective in the long run and improves productivity, there remains significant potential for irrigation not only for maize but for other crops especially vegetables that are profitable,” she said.

 Ms. Deka also said it costs $50 more to farm a hectare of maize using irrigation, however this method results in thrice the yield with gross returns of over $370 in income per hectare.

She said there is adequate evidence that small-scale irrigation schemes are financially viable and must be prioritized, adding that the majority of the small holder farms in Africa are less than three hectares in size which is relatively small, making it easy to use small-scale irrigation schemes that are low cost.

Ms. Deka said that unpredictable weather patterns, traditionally low productivity and an abundance of water resources imply that the time to invest in small scale irrigation as a country is now.  

“Over 90 percent of Zambia’s maize is grown by its smallholder farmers and is largely rain-fed because smallholder farmers generally do not have modern irrigation systems.”

“This makes crops highly susceptible to fluctuations in rainfall, hence the justified concerns over the rainfall because the majority of the small holder farmers are producing rain fed maize,” Ms. Deka said.

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