Improved irrigation infrastructure boosts crops’ production in Mbeya

19Mar 2020
The Guardian
Improved irrigation infrastructure boosts crops’ production in Mbeya

IMPROVEMENT of irrigation infrastructure in Mbeya Region has increased the area of irrigated land from 49,117 hectares in 2018 to 71,890 hectares this year, thanks to the initiative made by the government through the National Irrigation Commission (NIRC).

Regional Irrigation Engineer, Elibariki Mwendo said that for the past two years the government upgraded seven irrigation schemes of Mbaka and Katelantaba (Busokelo), Uturo, Gwiri, Igomelo, Mwendamtitu (Mbarali) and Mshewe (Mbeya Rural).

Eng Mwendo said that after improving irrigation infrastructure the irrigated area has increased, whereby the irrigated land in Mbaka is 500 ha, and Katelantaba (250ha), Uturo (900ha), Gwiri (400ha), Igomelo (312ha), Mwendamtitu (30,00lha) and Mshewe (250ha).

"The irrigation improvement made by the government through NIRC has strengthened irrigation--which is the reliable farming that has increased production of food crops such as rice, maize, and vegetables. This has also increased income at the family level in the area."

Eng Mwendo said that the move will improve food security in the region and the country at large, taking into accounts that farmers are able to do farming throughout the year.

Earlier, a senior agricultural officer from NIRC, Mnadi Taribo said that the commission has been providing training on new methods of rice farming called 'system of rice intensification (SRI)’.

According to him, SRI has proved to use limited amount of water, labor-intensive, organic method that uses younger seedlings singly spaced and typically hand weeded with special tools.

"The new system of rice farming doubles rice production per acre," Taribo said, citing Madibira scheme as one example whereby through SRI production has increased to 9.3 tonnes per hectare, from 7.2 tonnes per hectare (traditional farming). In Uturo scheme, the SRI method increased production to 13 tonnes per hectare from 5.7 tonnes (traditional farming).

Taribo further explained that SRI methods help increase yields by over 30 percent while using 40 percent less water than conventional methods. The method was initially developed in the 1980s in Madagascar and has been validated in 43 countries. SRI practices and concepts have also been successfully adapted to upland rice and to other crops such as wheat, finger millet, and sugarcane.

Between 2014 and 2020, the government spent 3.2bn/- in upgrading irrigation infrastructure in Mbeya Region.