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Assessment of suitability of the irrigation equipment in Africa

The Indian subcontinent matches well with African conditions particularly in terms of rainfall, soil type, cropping pattern and irrigation. Pumping technology is well established there and various pump types are used depending upon the water table. The Indian equipment is well suited to the African conditions as a few Indian companies have already supplied pumps to some African countries. Since the cost of Indian pumps is comparatively lower, it will be easily accepted by both suppliers and farmers, as most of the smallholders in those African countries own around 2 ha or less. In India the small and marginal farmers who account for about 70 percent of the farming community own about 1 ha and use mostly electric powered pumps. In locations where electricity supply is inadequate, diesel powered pumps are used. Manual pumps such as treadle pumps are used in states like Bihar, Orissa and parts of West Bengal where the water table is shallow.

In the four African countries visited, irrigation water for crop production is obtained from rivers and streams both by gravity and pumping methods. In several locations pumping groundwater is also common using either manual or mechanical pumps. Normally, when the water table is 6-7 metres high, manually operated pumps such as hand, rope and washer and treadle pumps are used. Hand and treadle pumps are also used in India and will be suitable for African conditions. Indian Mark II pumps are already in use in several African countries mostly for rural water supply projects under the UNICEF programme. A few suppliers had also imported these pumps.

Mechanical pumps such as submersible and diesel engine pumps from India were imported by a few suppliers in Malawi and Zambia and it is reported that the demand may be increasing.

The major component of well investment is the construction. In India, there is a large variety of drilling equipment. These range from slurry sludge and hand boring sets for shallow wells, to rotary drills for making deep bores in alluvium soils and percussion and hammer drills for making deep bores in hardrock areas. Furthermore, advanced mechanical drills are also available to make horizontal and vertical boreholes inside the wells to a length of 30-40 metres. In Zimbabwe, collector wells with horizontal boreholes are drilled to a length of about 30 metres at the bottom of the open wells which are 15-20 metres deep. Currently, well drilling is a very costly operation in all of the African countries. The drilling equipment and technologies available in India can easily satisfy the needs of the African smallholders for all types of well construction at a comparatively lower rate.

Sprinkler and drip irrigation equipment is also manufactured and widely used in several states in India. The Premier Irrigation Equipment Company is particularly well known for sprinkler equipment and the Jain Drip Irrigation Company is well-known for drip irrigation. These companies are already exporting irrigation equipment components to USA, several European and a few African countries. Smallholders in the African countries have already been exposed to drip and sprinkler irrigation systems due to the extensive use of these systems in the large private and government estates. However, this technology cannot be adopted by all smallholders due to its high cost. The cost will be comparatively lower when the equipment is imported from India.


Invariably in all the countries the price of the irrigation equipment is higher than if it were imported from India. For example, the hand pump (up to 5 m depth), costs US$ 60 to US$ 120 compared to US$ 500 to US$ 600 in Tanzania. The cost of an imported 5 HP electric pump from India costs US$ 300 to US$ 350 compared to the prevailing price of US$ 700 for one imported from European countries. A 5 HP diesel set, from India costs US$ 600 to US$ 700 compared to US$ 1 000 to US$ 2 000 in Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia. In Zimbabwe, a 15HP engine imported from Europe costs about US$ 6 000. Aluminium pipes cost about US$ 20 per 5.5 m length if imported from India while those locally made cost about US$ 37 in Zimbabwe. The cost of a standard sprinkler nozzle if imported will be about US$ 5 whereas it costs about US$ 10 in all the four countries. Detailed comparisons of the imported prices from Europe and Asian countries are given in Table 12.

In Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia all the equipment are imported either from Europe or South Africa. However, small components like PVC pipes are locally made. In Zimbabwe alone, most of the equipment is manufactured and some are imported from Europe, South Africa and USA.

One of the components of the high cost of importation is the duty for the equipment and raw materials used for manufacturing the equipment. For example, in Tanzania, the import duty is only 5 %. In Malawi, even though there is no duty for the agricultural equipment, a 20% surtax is levied on the accessories of agricultural equipment. In Zambia although a tax concession was announced by the Government in the current budget, the suppliers reported that it had not been implemented. Currently, imported equipment attracts a 15% duty and 20% VAT. In Zimbabwe, despite no duty for the equipment, a 10-15% tax is levied on imports related to agriculture. In general, the local suppliers and manufacturers argued that imported equipment may be cheaper than those locally manufactured because of the import duty for the raw materials, high labour costs and low demand for the product. However, costs may be reduced if imported from India or manufactured locally in joint ventures with Indian companies. Once costs are reduced and local servicing facilities are available, then increases in demand for the equipment may be possible.

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