I’ve managed to recruit some volunteers to help out with the “Technique of the Week” conservation agriculture feature, but of course, I haven’t found the time to help them get started. In the meantime, I thought I’d share these two excellent pieces on drip irrigation that came across my desk last week.
FEED THE FUTURE | Conservation Agriculture Reduces Time and Labor for Women in Cambodia
In Cambodia, where 70 percent of the population relies on agriculture to sustain livelihoods, farmers have continued to use practices that have led to degraded landscapes. But with assistance from Feed the Future, Cambodian farmers are adopting sustainable agricultural practices without adding to their time or cost burden.
Conservation agriculture can prevent environmental degradation through three complementary practices: minimal soil disturbance (sometimes called “no till”); continuous mulch cover; and planting diverse crops. In combination, these strategies help farmers improve soil health and prevent water evaporation while also reducing manual labor.
… The women farmers grew a variety of vegetables, including string beans, cucumber, Chinese cabbage, kale, tomatoes and eggplant. Each of the farmers Reyes worked with committed to using four specific practices for growing vegetables on 100 square meters of land, dividing their plots into four sections to be farmed as follows: conservation agriculture with hand watering; conservation agriculture with drip irrigation; traditional methods with drip irrigation; and traditional methods with hand watering. They were each supplied with a water tank and drip irrigation system, which they could use as long as they complied with the experiment’s protocols.
While the four different practices showed no significant differences in yields or income for the vegetable farmers, there was a substantial difference in the labor required to maintain each of the four plots. The researchers estimate that growing vegetables using traditional methods with hand watering requires hauling about 1,300 pounds of water per day during the dry season, and up to twice that amount during very dry seasons. By contrast, drip irrigation and conservation agriculture freed the women farmers from the drudgery of carrying water, tilling and weeding.
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR | Drip, drip, drip: Tanzania farmers learn to defeat drought
“I was very frustrated because my crops were drying up before harvest,” he said. “It reached a point where I even struggled to feed my own family,” Mr. Chuwa says.
Recommended: Think you know Africa? Take our geography quiz.
Now, however, a drip irrigation system, introduced to help his village deal with worsening drought, is restoring his harvests, building his resilience to erratic weather, and saving time, he says.
“You simply open the tap and leave the kit to supply water to the roots, unlike the traditional system, which takes a lot of time and energy,” he said.
SEE ALSO: USDA Microirrigation [PDF]