TRIT`s Crop Water Management pogramme leader Benjamin Mtaki looks at the pipe that irrigates tea through drip irrigation technology at a trial farm in Uwemba village, Njombe District. (Photo: Prosper Makene)
The Tea Research Institute of Tanzania (TRIT) will this year distribute drip irrigation technology to all tea growing areas in strategy aimed at increasing production of the crop.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Guardian over the phone from Mufindi yesterday, TRIT Crop Water Management programme leader Benjamin Mtaki said the drip irrigation technology will help the farmers reduce the cost of using water for irrigation and hence assist them to produce more tea. He said the ordinary technology uses a lot of water that cannot go directly to the root of the crop.
Mtaki said that drip irrigation is an efficient method of watering plants, drop by drop and the water flows through a special pipe to very small outlets called emitters, thus watering the soil around the plant roots – hence ‘drip irrigation’.
He also said that water is applied close to the plant so that the soil immediately surrounding the plant receives very limited volume.
Clarifying, he said that drip irrigation is more important to farmers because it is more targeted, intelligent application of water, fertiliser and chemicals that when used properly can provide great benefits.
“Tea drip irrigation enables farmers to have double production of green leaves as compared to the traditional sprinkler method that used before. It enables efficient utilisation of water to adapt to climate change and poor distribution of rainfall," he said.
He added: “One of the outcomes of drip irrigation is the successful trials at Uwemba village in Njombe District, where farmers used to produce about 2500kgs from one ha in a year, but now they produce about 3500 kgs per year from the same field. It’s a more successful technology that we have to be proud of.”
He also noted that TRIT’s drip irrigation has so far reached 10 villages in Rungwe District, Mbeya Region, three villages in Njombe Region, two villages in Muheza District, Tanga region and also two wards in Mufindi District in Iringa Region.
"The technology is also used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall. Additionally, irrigation also has a few other uses in crop production, which include protecting plants against frost, suppressing weed and helping in preventing soil consolidation," Mtaki said.
He pointed out that this year they will also establish more farmer field schools for drip irrigation so as to assist tea researchers to get valid information on the effects of climate change on tea crop.