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Irrigation and drainage

Evolution of irrigation development

The irrigation potential for the country, based on the physical land capability and water availability, is estimated at 93 220 ha. In 2000, 49 843 ha of the land is under irrigation, with over 40 000 ha being used for irrigated sugar cane (Table 8). Over 84 percent of the irrigated land is found in the Lowveld, with about 15 percent in the Middleveld.

About 10 large irrigation schemes (> 500 ha) occupy 67 percent of the irrigated land (Figure 2). Medium irrigation schemes (50 500 ha) and small irrigation schemes (< 50 ha) occupy 20 percent and 13 percent of the land respectively. Large schemes are dominant in TDL, while small schemes are dominant in SNL. In the latter, there are several micro-irrigation schemes which are communal projects funded by several NGOs and IFAD through the Swaziland Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. These schemes occupy about 1 500 ha of land scattered around the country.

About 52 percent of the land is under surface irrigation, followed by overhead irrigation (drag lines, fixed sprinklers, centre pivots, etc.) on 42 percent of the area. The remaining 6 percent of the area is under localized irrigation (Table 8 and Figure 3).

Role of irrigation in agricultural production, the economy and society

Sugar cane is by far the dominant irrigated crop in the country, covering over 91 percent of the harvested irrigated cropped area (Table 8 and Figure 4). Next comes citrus, covering almost 6 percent. Smaller areas are covered by vegetables, maize, potatoes, rice and bananas. Table 9 shows areas, harvests and yields of sugar cane over several years.

The sugar industry, which is the main irrigation industry in the country, provides direct employment to about 16 000 people, and about 20 000 people benefit from the industry indirectly. The sugar estates provide free or heavily subsidized medical facilities, housing, electricity and water to employers.

Several irrigation and water resources development programmes exist in the country. Some of the projects are highlighted in Table 10.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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