News / Africa

    Small-Scale Irrigation Nets Large-Scale Payoff

    Rainwater harvesting is a small-scale irrigation technique. (SIWI)
    Rainwater harvesting is a small-scale irrigation technique. (SIWI)
    Joe DeCapua
    A new study shows small-scale irrigation systems could boost farmers’ incomes by billions of dollars in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The research was discussed at the World Water Week conference in Stockholm.

    The study comes from the International Water Management Institute, winner of this year’s Stockholm Water Prize. It said small-scale irrigation systems can protect millions of farmers from the effects of climate change and help ensure food security.

    The institute said food prices are rising globally due, in part, to a failed monsoon season in Asia and a widespread, prolonged drought in the United States.

    Timothy Williams, the institute’s director for Africa, said prior to 2008 the world enjoyed a long period of low and stable food prices.

    “That situation lulled the world into a point where investment in agricultural research declined. The stocks of food that were held around the world declined. And then bad weather in some of the major producing countries and speculation by commodity traders all led to a situation where we found ourselves in 2008,” he said.

    That was the beginning of the food crisis that extended into 2009. Since then, higher, more volatile food prices have become the norm.

    “The forecast indicates that the era of low food prices is over. We will be experiencing increased food prices over the next few years. And what that does is to increase the vulnerability of very poor people in developing countries, who spend about three-quarters of their income on purchasing food,” said Williams.

    The report – Water for Wealth and Food Security – says the use of “smallholder water management techniques could increase crop yields up to 300 percent in some cases.” Williams said that’s a good return on low-cost investments.

    “It includes the use of motorized pumps to access groundwater. It includes rainwater harvesting. It includes the construction of small reservoirs that a group of farmers can jointly use to irrigate their land. It also includes farming of low lying valley bottoms where there is residual moisture stored in the soil that can allow them to be able to farm all year round and not only during the rainy season,” he said

    The techniques are in contrast to the expensive dams and large-scale irrigations systems that were introduced in the 1960s, when many countries gained independence.

    Williams says small-scale irrigation systems would be a major benefit to women farmers, who produce much of the food in developing countries.

    “By providing access to women farmers you not only improve agricultural production, you also improve the household nutrition. Because women farmers, in addition to producing food for the market, also will have the opportunity to grow a variety of crops – not only staple crops – but also vegetables and fruits that can produce a balanced diet,” he said

    However, Williams said even though these systems cost only a few hundred dollars upfront, that’s a few hundred dollars too much for many women farmers. Williams says that’s why the International Water Management Institute promotes equity in financial aid. One example is a revolving loan that covers upfront investment costs with gradual repayments.

    The irrigation systems are part of the three-year AgWater Solutions Research Initiative, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It includes a number of international partners, such as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Food Policy Research Institute.

    World Water Week is an annual event sponsored by the Stockholm International Water Institute.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.