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Small scale irrigation schemes for small holder agriculturalists!

By Esubalew Dires

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Undoubtedly, the Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara (ORDA) has carried out developmental intervention works in the region. Since its establishment, ORDA has put remarkable results and improved the lives of thousands of people especially in areas where persistent drought is observed. Natural, water, food security and agricultural development and gender and youth programs are major focus areas of interventions. The organization planted 604.6 Million seedlings in 10,400 hectares of land which ORDA only contributed 8% of the region’s forest cover. Hence ORDA won the national green cup award in 2014/2015.

Food security and agricultural development program carried out plantation and distribution of 151,225 apple seedlings in 136.1 hectares of land benefiting for 7,739 HHs. In addition, hybrid mango and Orange seedlings have been distributed for 13,025 HHs which covered 637 hectares of land.

Over 4,760 safe water supply schemes have been constructed and more than 1.8 million people benefited from them. For this reason, ORDA contributes 14 to 16% of the regional clean and safe drinking water. The Organization also constructed 200 small scale irrigation schemes which can potentially harvest 12,017 hectares of land benefiting for 67,957 households in the region. 
Nowadays, ORDA is carrying out intensive small irrigation schemes throughout the region. What makes ORDA unique with regard to development of small irrigations is the way it lays a fertile ground for active participation and coordination of authorities at zonal, woreda and kebele levels, farmers and stakeholders. ORDA is now constructing more than 19 irrigation schemes in 2015.

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According to IWMI (Irrigation potential in Ethiopia July 2010), Ethiopia comprises 112 million hectares (Mha) of land. Cultivable land area estimates vary between 30 to 70 Mha. Currently, high estimates show that only 15 Mha of land is under cultivation. For the existing cultivated area, our estimate is that only about 4 to 5 percent is irrigated. The study also revealed rainfall is the ultimate source of water in Ethiopia, with surface water, ground water, and other water sources fed by rain. To understand the country’s irrigation potential, it is important to understand these water sources. Ethiopia has significant rainfall. Based on grid-based average annual rainfall and the land area, the study estimates that Ethiopia receives about 980 billion (~1 trillion) cubic meters (m3) of rain a year. This implies there are possibilities to increase irrigation potential.

Most farmers in the region as well as the country are smallholder agriculturalists. Small scale irrigation schemes are therefore imperative in order to insist farmers to harvest twice and more and increase productivity of their small plots of land. Studies indicated that Ethiopia has 5.3 million hectares of potentially irrigable land. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, it’s only 2 million or 38 percent is being used.

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A wide spread of construction of small irrigation schemes are being carried over to maximize irrigation productivity in the region. ORDA, the major developmental partner of the region, through the regional government funded by International Food and Agricultural Development (IFAD) intensively accomplished eminence schemes in short time. Among the 26 projects, ORDA already handed over 22 accomplished SIS to the beneficiary farmers, office of agriculture at districts and Bureau of Water in 2014.

Farmer Ayalew Ferede a resident at Girum Yesankat kebele of Machakel district of East Gojjam is among the beneficiaries of a scheme developed on Gedeb River. In his ¼ of land, he produced 30 quintals of potato and earned over 6 thousand birr in 2013 and built a 75 corrugated iron sheet home. They are being changed through time because of utilization of irrigation. They are very much motivated to change their lives working day and night. 

Kalo small irrigation scale was constructed with a total budget of 15.5 million birr in West Gojjam Zone Womberema district. It benefits more than 564 households and has a potential of about 262 hectares of land to be irrigated. We found farmers in the area preparing their land for irrigation. Farmer Gashu Ejigu, a resident at Abana Sebadar Womberema district, while explaining his happiness about SIS said “For longer years, Kalo eroded our loam soil and caused for peoples’ death. But now ORDA constructed the scheme to benefit us. My long age & existence showed me the use of the river for irrigation. Thanks to God, we are able to supply production of potato, onion, cabbage to the market.”

In Awi administrative zone of Banja district Buchiksi SIS took a cost of 8.4 miilion. It benefits more than 1360 households and has a potential of about 230 hectares of land to be irrigated. We met father of the seventh children, Ato Tadele Fenta harvesting his barley. Due to the construction of Buchiksi modern irrigation, they are now producing crops through irrigation. They harvested using traditional irrigation for long. Before Buchiksi is constructed there was wastage of water, energy and time. They were incapable of producing twice in the early times. Currently, they have started producing crops which they didn’t try before. He stated that he earns 10 quintal of barley, 8 quintal of potato and 8 quintal of onion using irrigation.

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Mutifecha small scale irrigation was constructed to benefit Jilie Temuga and Ephratana Gidim districts of Oromia and North Shewa Administrative Zones. The project paid out over 25 million birr and has a potential to harvest 400 hectares of land benefiting 1,339 households. Far beyond its economical advantage, Mutifecha SIS also resolved social affairs. Disagreements and instabilities that had been occurred for longer years between both Jilie Temuga and Ephratana Gidim districts came to an end for ORDA did the conciliation. The organization conducted a thorough discussion between residents to uplift its developmental endeavors. Generally, ORDA is fruitful that it actively involves farmers before starting construction to mix cement and sand. Currently, farmers in the area shifted to agricultural technologies. We found farmer Ayalew Fisseha from Ephratana Gidim district at Jewaha Negeso protecting his tef from birds. The area used a traditional irrigation since 2012 but now ORDA transformed it into modern and started to harvest onion, maize, tef and mung bean. 

Farmer Ayalew exclaimed, “I was working as a daily laborer since I couldn’t earn enough production; however, after the schemes are constructed by ORDA, I’m devoted here at my farm. ORDA’s indispensable role in constructing schemes throughout the region is really splendid. Participation and support of the governmental, nongovernmental and stakeholders’ have impact on enhancement of productivity of farmers. ORDA is open as usual to change the livelihood of smallholder farmers through irrigation and other means.

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