Mzumbe students invent simple, affordable means of irrigation using

17Aug 2016
Getrude Mbago
The Guardian
Mzumbe students invent simple, affordable means of irrigation using

Tanzania is one of the countries which have been blessed with a number of rivers, passing through various areas to the sea and inland basins.

Students of Mzumbe Secondary School, William Kiluma and Benedict Msangi direct their scientific knowledge and power to invent effective tools for irrigation using bamboo trees.

Unfortunately, a grand system to utilise much of the water in irrigation is yet to be put in place. Instead, farmers have always been relying on rainwater for agricultural production.

Yet, for many years irrigation farming has been mentioned as the best way and reliable system for farmers as it assures them of good and enough produce all the time.

For one thing, irrigation is a system that helps the farmers to have less dependence on rainwater in activities that relate to agriculture.

Some farmers have been decrying the expensiveness of agricultural equipment and among others, irrigation facilities have been difficult to get. As a result many are failing to opt for irrigation farming.

In view of this deficiency, two young scientists studying at Mzumbe Secondary School in Morogoro Region have come up with an idea to help the farmers out of this trap so that they practice irrigation farming in a simple and affordable way.
The students, William Kiluma and Benedict Msangi directed their scientific knowledge and power to invent effective tools for irrigation using bamboo.

According to them, they have experienced that farmers in Tanzania for a long time have been facing problems such as poor crop yields, soil erosion and lack of proper education in agricultural transformation.

“We decided to go out of the school and talked with farmers of Mzumbe Village who were decrying high costs of irrigation pumps. This was one of the reasons for their failure to utilise the waters of Mgera River,” Kiluma told ‘The Guardian’ during the Young Scientists Innovation Exhibition held in Dar es Salaam last week.

He said that the good thing about this system is it doesn’t need any fuel or power. One can consider implementing it in regions where bamboo trees are available for free or at a low cost.

Organised by the Young Scientists Tanzania (YST) with funds from the Irish Embassy in Tanzania to the tune of $147, 335, the exhibition brought together different schools from across the country.

Kiluma said that the farmers also had claims on the effects of the available methods for irrigation such as furrow irrigation which they pointed out that it leads to soil erosion.

“They also complained of the high cost of pipes and machines in pipe and drip irrigation. Through data collection, the idea of using bamboo for irrigation enlightened our minds,” he said.

The bamboo tree has a hollow stem which can be used as a pipe and emitter for irrigation, he said.
Its ability to grow on different lands and durability make it a perfect means for irrigation, he added.

According to their approach, farmers no longer need other expensive means of irrigation as they can now enjoy their work by using simple means of irrigation while they benefit from their produce.

Their study was based on two experiments. Experiment number one was to show the effectiveness of the bamboo irrigation system on the places with good supply of water such as homes.

And the second experiment was to show the efficiency of bamboo system on places with natural supply of water. In this experiment, a bamboo water wheel was constructed and set in the river around Mongwe area near Mzumbe village.

“Using bamboo as a means of irrigation, farmers have to just set some bamboo water wheels from the river and direct them to the farm to allow water to flow freely through the constructed bamboo water schemes,” said Benedict Msangi, the co-founder of the project.

After all the research and experimentation, according to Msangi, they went back to the farmers and let them try the method which then seemed to be economical and best.

The students narrated, “It is fortunate for the whole nation, that bamboo irrigation system can be used as a low cost irrigation method.” Bamboo irrigation system, if properly installed and frequently checked can be used as an alternative to the irrigation system known by many people, he said.

The young scientists called upon the government to consider the system which they said if properly used, the country is going to benefit much from it.

Speaking during the event, YST Executive Director and Co-Founder Dr Gosbert Kamugisha said this year’s exhibition brought together about 150 schools to showcase their technological innovations.

He said 2016 was an important year for Young Scientists Tanzania (YST) as they managed to reach 3 per cent of all secondary schools in the country.

According to him, while in Mtwara last year, the YST board decided to pilot a regional exhibition in Mtwara to provide more opportunities for schools and students to participate in the YST initiative.

YST aims to promote science and technology as subjects of interest, especially among young people, and educate students on scientific research methodology in the country.

It also looks at the ways to improve the quality of science teaching while strengthening the links between science, technology and development.

During the event, the government as well declared its commitment to invest in science and technology in order to increase the number of scientists in the country.

The Minister for Education, Science and Vocational Training, Joyce Ndalichako said in order for the country to have enough science experts, there was a need to direct financial resources to science and technology studies and encourage students to take science subjects.

She said for a country which is focused on reaping the benefits of development, it was important to invest in equipping its future generation with the right and better education to ensure a labour force that will foster development.

According to her, the government’s focus now was to buy laboratory equipment to enable students do field practice with confidence.