In 2012, Dahari, an NGO, began using micro-irrigation (also called drip irrigation) on four trial fields on the island of Anjouan in the Comoros. Five crops were tested, and results have shown an average yield increase of 111%.
The principle of drip irrigation is to bring water to crops’roots via a pipe system arranged under the ground containing intermittent holes. Dahari technicians who have implemented this technique have observed a significant increase in yields. Tests proved successful on all five crops : petsai, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and aubergine. Yields increased by between 20% and 326%, with an average of 111%, compared to control plots conducted in parallel and using conventional irrigation.
"There are several reasons for this," says Christian Rakotoarivino, the Dahari technician who installed the irrigation system in Mpage, near Mutsamudu. "Drip irrigation allows the plant to absorb water more easily. Slow water filtration through the soil reduces erosion and nutrient depletion and slows the growth of weeds. Finally, as leaves are no longer wet, the spread of diseases and fungi is reduced."
Drip irrigation has other advantages. Water is scarce in the Comoros, and drip irrigation has been shown to reduce water consumption by up to 70% compared with traditional methods. It also reduces workload by 20%. Currently, farmers have to manually move sprinklers around the fields, and this often involves travelling long distances to reach their land. According to Badroudine Ali, another Dahari technician, farmers are very keen on the new irrigation system. They will soon be able to see its usefulness for themselves thanks to 13 demonstration kits which will be sent to villages this year and installed in communal fields by the farmers themselves.
Dahari hopes to send out 50 kits by the end of 2013. Twenty have already been purchased by the National Program for Sustainable Human Development, an IFAD program, who will distribute the kits free of charge to those who most need them. In order to encourage farmers to take the projects eriously, the NGO has chosen to ask for a financial contribution in exchange for the kit, equal to the price of four watering cans. This may seem low, but it is actually quite high for many farmers in the region. The cost of this investment will be recouped by the farmers in less than one year on a field of 100m². To enable them to buy the irrigation equipment, the NGO will allow the farmers to pay post-harvest.
Dahari works closely with farmers and communities to develop sustainable farming systems. It offers agroecological training to farmers and helps set up village management committees which get whole villages involved in the preservation of resources.
• To learn more about Dahari : http://www.ecddcomoros.org