Irrigation sole weapon against hunger, poverty


After two decades of Tanzania government's involvement in governance and business, in 1986 it shed off business and maintained governance following the coming onto the scene of President Julius Nyerere's successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi.


 Since then all government departments and ministries, including that of water and irrigation, have been confined to the provision of advisory and technical services.


 And because of that, the Assistant Director of Irrigation in the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MOWI), Mr Gabriel Kalinga is simply tasked to provide technical support to large scale farmers and what he describes as small scale holders.


 This approach, he says, is aimed at helping those who are already involved in some kind of irrigation activities.


 Most parts of the country involved in irrigation have traditional irrigation schemes, "and it is these schemes that the government has been busy, trying to promote and modernize them," he says.


 "At present the government's attention is focused in the same arid regions in the northern region of Arusha, centrally located regions of Dodoma, Singida and Shinyanga and Mwanza located in the southern tip of Africa's biggest fresh water, Lake Victoria".


 Mr Kalinga describes the foregoing areas as marginal areas on account of being subjected to seasonal rains, adding that what they are involved in, in these areas is harvesting rains and trapping water from rivers".  


 He says they usually move in to offer their technical support once they are convinced over the existence of commitment on the part of the people in a given area.


 But what criteria does the government use in determining between large scale farmers and small scale holders?


 In terms of hectares, Mr Kalinga says from 0-500 hectares falls under small farm holders, from 500-2000, medium and from 2000 hectares upwards under large scale farming.


 Some of the large scale farms in Tanzania which are over 2,000 hectares are Mbarali and Kapunga paddy farms in Mbeya Region, southern highlandsregion.


 However, another equally large farm, Madibira which is also located in southern highlands region with over 3,000 hectares, does not fall under large scale farm category because it is occupied by small scale holders who own hectares from one to three in the large farm.


 Out of 331,490 hectares currently under irrigation, large scale commercial farms constitute 55,230 and small scale farms constitute 276,260 hectares.


 The irrigation system dominant in Tanzania is that of open channel in which water flows by gravity, hence its name Open Channel Gravity System.


 But Mr Kalinga says the dominant irrigation system is slowly, but steadily being replaced by a modern irrigation referred to as the Drip Irrigation System.


 He said the move towards drip irrigation system has mainly been brought about by increased competition between and among farmers.


 Drip irrigation system is also replacing what had until then been considered a modern irrigation system, namely the Sprinklers Irrigation System.


 There are three main advantages in drip irrigation system.


 One, since it uses water more efficiently compared to the two other systems, open water channel gravity and sprinklers systems, hence making it more ideal for areas where water is scarce.


 Secondly, because the water irrigates only the plant, in a water dripping form, leaving other areas dry, it reduces quite considerably the growth of weeds which tend to affect the growthand the general wellbeing of the plant.


 Thirdly, drip irrigation combines well with fertilizer as the latter could easily be mixed with water that is directed through the drip irrigation system to the desired plant.


 According to Mr Kalinga some of the leading farms in the country where drip irrigation is fast replacing sprinklers irrigation system is the Tanganyika Planting Company, TPC, situated in near Moshi town at the foot of Africa's roof, Mount Kilimanjaro.


 TPC which is famed for sugar production produced from its own sugarcane plantation was first established in 1930 and another first for the company is that it was the first company to introduce not only organized football team in the then British mandated territory of Tanganyika, but also semi-professional footballers in the East African region.


 What is more, it was through TPC footballers from Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika who first donned tracksuits and modern football boots complete with studs in a region where footballers played bare-footed.


 During the time, the TPC team used to provide more than 90 percent of Tanganyika's national football team players.


 Other farms where sprinklers irrigation system is being replaced by drip irrigation system are Mufindi Tea plantation in Iringa Region, in southern highlands region, a 650 hectare coffee farm at Mweka, near Moshi town in Kilimanjaro Region which takes its name from Mount Kilimanjaro and horticulture farms in Arusha and Kilimanjaro Regions.


 Mr Kalinga says they recently introduced a pilot irrigation scheme which uses wells and pumps in getting water for use through drip irrigation system.


 "The pilot irrigation scheme has been introduced in two districts, one in Iringa Rural District, Iringa Region and the second one in Moshi District in Kilimanjaro Region.


 In Moshi District the schemes are known as Kochakindo and Kyomu schemes and in Iringa Rural District the schemes are located at Tanangozi, Mgama, Wangama and Igingilanyi.


 The other important sources of water for irrigation schemes in Iringa Rural District include the Great Ruaha tributary.


 Mr Kalinga told me that under the Public Private Partnership Programme, the government through the Ministry of Water and Irrigation can provide technical support to a farmer in need of expertise in irrigation.


 He says many people with adequate funds are always afraid of investing their money in agriculture mainly because of the high risk business in agriculture carries.


 However, he says that under the new, two year National Irrigation Master Plan unveiled by the government this year, the ministry helps those who are prepared to plunge into irrigation schemes.


 The assistance is two-fold: One, the ministry helps the client in getting a title deed for his or her farm, and secondly, it helps in getting what is known as water use permit initially referred to as water right.


 He says water right was replaced with water use permit because experience showed that those bestowed with water right tended to take water use literally, that is, as if it was their birth right!


 The creation of the National Irrigation Policy has helped the ministry in coming up with package, that includes, among others, title deeds and water use permit, which are in turn registered by the Tanzania Investment Centre, TIC.


 What this means is that foreign and local investors who want to invest in irrigation schemes in Tanzania can now get in touch with the TIC, who have temporary rights over the packages, and negotiate with them for any number of registered packages for their use.


 The ministry of water and irrigation draws part of its funds in designing the packages from a basket fund under the Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP) which was formed in 2006 and draws funding from both government and development partners.


 According to Mr Kalinga the basket fund has 2.5 trillion shillings, and apart from the ministry of water and irrigation, the fund is also at the disposal of other lead ministries of agriculture, livestock and fisheries, industries and the prime minister's office regional administration and local governments.


 The ASDP's tenure (it started in 2006/07) is seven years and is expected to end in 2012/13.


 For irrigation scheme or any project for that matter to qualify for funding from the basket three conditions or criteria must be fulfilled.


One, how many villagers are in the given District, secondly, the population distribution in the area and thirdly, what is referred to as rainfall index.


 Scores or marks allocated to the three conditions or criteria are as follows: the number of villagers in a District gobbles 80 marks while population distribution and rainfall index is 10 marks each, bringing the total to 100 marks.


 But criteria or conditions for irrigation schemes are somewhat different as they may not be a space for housing such an irrigation scheme in a densely populated area.


 What is more, given the importance and complicated nature of irrigation schemes, they are allocated more funds from the basket.


 For instance, according to Mr Kalinga, 75 percent of the ASDP's basket will be allocated to irrigation schemes.


 However, even then, says Mr Kalinga the funds are not adequate given the enormity and complicated nature of irrigation schemes that require very expensive infrastructure.


 It is for this reason that irrigation schemes have additional funding from another basket funding referred to as the District Irrigation Development Fund, DIDF


 However, Mr Kalinga pays glowing tribute to the fourth phase administration of President Jakaya Kikwete for showing enormous goodwill towards irrigation schemes.


 Of course, it would have been surprising if such political will did not exist given the fact that it is the same administration that has since its inception in January 2006, has been propagating for what has come to be known as Kilimo Kwanza (agriculture first).


 However, when all is said and done, irrigation remains the only salvation for Tanzanians given the increasing lack of reliability of rains in the country.


 However, when all parties play their part coupled with the presence of a robust Tanzania CountrySTAT, Tanzania's policy makers are better placed for success now than ever before.