Worldwatch Research Intern Alex Tung reports on water management workshops that are teaching farmers and communities in West Africa how to incorporate micro-irrigation into their fields.
In the hot, dry regions of West Africa, small-scale farmers can spend up to five hours a day irrigating their crops-hauling water in plastic buckets or in hollowed, dried out squashes known as calabashes. But several initiatives are helping farmers make more money without breaking their backs.
One such initiative, Affordable Micro-Irrigation for Vegetable Production in West Africa, sponsors training workshops to encourage farmers from Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Ghana to adopt better crop management practices. Developed by AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center and supported by Taiwan's foreign ministry, the workshops began in December 2009 and teach participants about more efficient water management and irrigation systems, such as the MoneyMaker pump.
Known in Mali as nafasoro, the MoneyMaker pump, developed by KickStart, is one of the more widely adopted tools in the region. The pumps are available in two models: a pedal pump, the Super MoneyMaker, which costs 49,500 cfa (US$103), and a manual pump, the MoneyMaker Hip Pump, which costs 22,000 cfa.
'[Kickstart's pump] has very good prospects for riverbank vegetable gardening and irrigating vegetables even about 75-80 meters from river sources,' said Dr. Madhu Bhattarai, an agricultural economist at AVRDC.
In Mali, where AVRDC worked with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to demonstrate technologies, more than 6,000 pumps were sold and 5,000 enterprises were created. Farmers have become actively involved in testing and adapting equipment for their vegetable gardens. Currently, more than 150 women farmers are growing vegetables using affordable micro-irrigation methods, including drip irrigation kits, pedal pumps, and microsprinklers.
Investing in micro-irrigation technologies may seem daunting for small-scale farmers, but the venture has proved to bring a reliable return on investment. Mahmoud Guindo, a farmer in Mali, doubled his annual income selling fruits and vegetables after purchasing the MoneyMaker pump. In addition to being able to irrigate crops more easily, farmers like Mahmoud can now expand their planting area of high-value crops such as fruits and vegetables and cultivate several crops year-round, yielding a steadier, higher income.
Visit Worldwatch's Nourishing the Planet blog to learn more about the role of agriculture in stimulating local economies and enriching the lives of individuals across the world.