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Economics of irrigation technology transfer and adoption, K. Palanisami

K. Palanisami
Professor of Agricultural Economics
Tamil Nadu Agricultural University Coimbatore India

Potential for irrigation technology transfer and uptake
Economics of irrigation
National capacity
Transferring experiences in irrigation equipment manufacture
Assessment of suitability of the irrigation equipment in Africa
Conclusion and recommendations

Irrigation has helped to increase agricultural production in the last 30-40 years in developing countries and has evoked great expectations. Irrigated agriculture plays a very small role in African agricultural economies though irrigation is a technological option for agricultural development of the sub-Saharan Africa as in the tropics. Nearly 65 percent of all land in sub-Saharan Africa is arid/semi-arid, but less than 3 % of the land (except two countries) is under irrigation. Rainfed agriculture is very important in sub-Saharan Africa, and is one of the reasons for fluctuations in agricultural production in these countries.

The contribution of irrigation in cereal production for food security is increasing, as rice is produced in an irrigated environment. Irrigation is particularly necessary in the dry season from May to November and consequently supplementary irrigation is needed in the wet season. This pattern of irrigation reduces the risk of food crop failure in the wet season and assures the utilization of the residual moisture in the dry (summer) season.

Fresh water availability in Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia is substantial and per caput availability per annum is about 1 000m3 for Malawi, 2 300 m for Zimbabwe, 3 000 m3 for Tanzania and 11 800 m3 for Zambia. Water withdrawal in these countries is less than 2%, except in Zimbabwe where it is about 5%. Therefore, there is great potential for irrigated agriculture as a means of achieving the food security goals.

However, irrigation equipment and methods currently used need to be improved. Many low-cost irrigation technologies for using water and for efficient pumping are available in the Asian countries like India, China and Malaysia. These technologies can be appropriately transferred to these African countries at a comparatively lower cost. This proposal provides the approach to transferring such low-cost irrigation technologies from the Asian countries.

The overall government policy in the countries under review is to promote social and economic development through sustainable irrigated agriculture. That approach must be economically justified, financially viable, socially acceptable and technically sound without causing unacceptable impact on the environment. It must also ensure that irrigation development programmes benefit as many households as possible and, in particular, those which belong to the most vulnerable groups of the rural community.

In light of the above, irrigation development, particularly small-scale irrigation, will be an important component of a diversification and expansion strategy to strengthen food security for the future. There is also a need to identify crops and irrigation techniques which will give higher returns to water and the overall investment. The best and most economical uses of water for irrigation are essential to any strategy of irrigation development.

This paper which is mainly derived from the earlier mission reports in the four countries!- Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe - highlights the potential for irrigation technology transfer, economics of irrigation, national capacity in technology transfer, transfer of experiences in equipment manufacture, transfer of low-cost technology, assessment of suitability of irrigation technology in Africa, cost price considerations and potential for joint venture.

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