Water in agricultural activities

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 11:01:40 +0000


By Makeli Phiri

Water is life so we say. It is a commodity that should not be wasted as it is so precious to every living thing under the sun. In whatever environment as long as there are living things in that area they all need water in minute or large quantities.

Agricultural activities are a life line for our country as well as many other nations in this world. The need for water is universal. Agricultural countries use a lot of water to grow the crops they abundantly produce. Zambia to a large extent is still dependent on the natural rainfall to produce most of the crops seen on the market, God given water and this God is so good because he loves all people, He gives to us the needed water for everyone to use. Zambia has a lot of surface water but little is put to good use. Hence, our food production is not so much maximized as it should be. Some countries draw water from hundreds of kilometers just to take it to where it is needed for various needs that is food production, sanitation, industrial and domestic uses the list is endless.

A serious farmer needs this water throughout the year because crop production has to be   carried out in order to feed the communities and the nation at large. In our Zambian context we have in the majority seasonal farmers these are the small scale farmers doted around the nation in the rural areas of our country. A few of these farmers are by perennial rivers and they do manage to grow needed crops for cash and home consumption.

This season the government has given priority to agriculture and indeed to food production, the country needs to grow as much of whatever crop that can do well as it can by empowering and encouraging the majority of the rural farming communities to produce these crops while the natural rain is still with us. By getting involved in agricultural activities would give them   direct income during the marketing period. The land is abundant the problem is in water  harvesting be harnessing hence the shortage during the off season.

While water is still available during the season, this water need to be harvested, harnessed and stored for future use. Construction of dams, weirs and deliberate construction of canals to areas that are potential crop production areas would be a very good investment. In future their use would yield and give fruitful results for the nation. Therefore, for agriculture to thrive all year round water should be available at all times in crop production areas.

Commercial farmers, the majority of them have the muscle to put up the required infrastructure and continue or maintain the agricultural production throughout the year. Water infrastructure should be made available equally to our small scale farmers in the very remote areas. These areas are now opening up with the roads being constructed for taking agricultural inputs as well as collecting the produce from these same areas for feeding the nation as well as for export if they meet export conditions.

Water in agriculture plays a very important role. Crops or plants grown need enough but not too much water. In the absence of water, plants become stressed and their growth habit is disturbed.

It is even worse when they are starved, any crop that is in such a mode of water starvation has both its potential size and yield greatly affected and if they are fruits may become fibrous and develop a bitter taste. In some cases fruit trees or even grains are forced to set fruit early and for the grain crops are forced to mature early. In both cases yield is affected. Continued shortage of water plants may be stunted and should they recover they never catch up with plants that had plenty of water.

Crops and indeed any plant in agriculture need water, just like human beings 70 percent of body content is water. And this water plays a very important role from germination to harvest. Once the seed is planted it would be dormant in the soil until water comes into contact with the seed, it is then that the miracle of germination starts. When the plant is now well established, the water surrounding the roots would be absorbed and this water now becomes the transporter of required nutrients within that plant. Without water this cannot happen and the growth would be greatly affected.

Transpiration in plants is the process by which the plants lose water through the leaves. When this happens some sort of a vacuum is created and water in the roots or around the roots is sucked into the plant system hence, avoiding stress makes the plant to stop growing and the ability to stay healthy is totally distorted.

With the abundance of the water the country should be able to produce all the food needed for export and for local consumption. But all this to happen there must be vast water reservoirs all over the nation. Dams and canals must be constructed.

Another alternative, give certain areas on lease to companies from different counties to grow their own food here in Zambia of course attach proper conditions that will suit this nation.

Once they put up the required infrastructures, these as they leave, after the agreed period will remain for the Zambians to use and continue producing the crops/food for the nation and export. This way we may develop certain areas of this nation agriculturally.

Agriculturists and engineers can come up with ideas that are multiple in nature for the economy of this country. Dependence on rain is not enough. Other areas may look deficient in water and yet the underground has a lake of unquenchable water.

This can also be extracted for agricultural use as well as other needy uses of the nation. From the big rivers power can be harnessed for the country to use that is additional power which would be useful to both agriculture and the developing industries and equally for the growing towns in the entire country.

There is no better way of making this water useful in our quest to produce food.

This rainy season let us see to it that this water is channelled into either natural reservoirs or man- made   reservoirs for usage in agricultural activities. With abundant food produced locally it would mean the cost will be affordable by the consumer. There is need to produce cheap food and combat malnutrition in the nation.

Some nations recycle sewage water making it safe for use, one day we shall head that way in the event of failing to draw water from far off sources. Water is precious both to agriculture and domestic use, the end users is us.

Water reservoirs once constructed should be made in such a way that they are able to discharge water when they are full to maintain safe levels, otherwise damaged reservoirs can create problems to the surrounding and down-stream path ways. Uses of such reservoirs should be stipulated in each area were these are constructed this is to avoid damage to these structures.

Let us harness this water for all weather crop production.


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