Agriculture / Amhara / East Africa / Ethiopia / Irrigation / IWMI / LIVES / Research / Tigray / Value Chains / Water / WLE

LIVES and IWMI teams investigate irrigation value chains in northern Ethiopia

Laelay Maichew Shallow GW (Photo credit: IWMI-Ethiopia office) A team of three researchers from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) recently joined a LIVES field mission in Tigray and Amhara regions. The team set out to familiarize the IWMI and regional LIVES teams; to discuss modes of communications and to get updated with ongoing activities and achievements. After understanding the context, the team identified potential sites to undertake participatory rural development appraisal (PRDA), and discussed planned activities with respect to irrigated agriculture value chains in LIVES.

Ongoing activities in the LIVES sites in relation to irrigation value chains include;

  • Selection of intervention peasant associations (PAs) for irrigation related interventions.
  • Selection of households/ groups as irrigation implies more often than not some form of collective organization that cannot be addressed by individual households.
  • Demonstration of planting fodder and fruit trees in such a way that they could be inter-cropped with cereals, sowing of fodder in pasture land and planting fodder around gullies, canals and buffer zones.

The team observed considerable development in Tigray region in changing the farming systems from dominantly rain-fed subsistence farming to a market-oriented irrigated-based farming system. Tigrayan farmers told the team that approximately 70-80% of cropped land is irrigated in some of the existing schemes.

Irrigated farming systems in Tigray valley bottoms combine several technologies: river diversions, motorized pumps, small dams, and shallow wells taping in the same water resource. The farmers grow irrigated cash crops, mainly vegetables, in the dry season, and cereals in the rainy season with supplementary irrigation when need be. At valley level, community-based committees are in charge of regulating water use and distribution. For instance, pump owners can only pump water according to a schedule set by the committee. The same organizations are in charge of maintenance of irrigation infrastructure and watershed management that is strongly linked to irrigation development.

As in Tigray, farmers in Amhara increasingly produce cash crops in rainy season (such as potatoes) and strikingly chat is replacing other crops produced by irrigation in the area. The 6,000 ha Koga irrigation scheme of Amhara is another vast resource for irrigation agriculture development in the region.  With better assessment of the institutional and organizational situation of this scheme, significant intervention and impact could be seen in irrigation value chain development.

Contributed by Philippe Lempériere

Some photos from the field 

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