This project aims to make irrigation farming more profitable by managing water, salt and fertilisers better. It will:
1. Refine and deploy farmer-friendly monitoring tools that measure soil water, nutrients, salt and depth to watertable;
2. Develop a “Virtual Irrigation Academy” (VIA) through on-line visualisation of data from the monitoring tools linked to a virtual discussion, learning and teaching space with skilled facilitators;
3. Determine how the VIA promotes the social and institutional learning that improves irrigated farm productivity;
4. Develop partnerships for the post project continuation of the VIA and monitoring tools.
This project has been developed in response to major new irrigation investments in Malawi and Tanzania. In the past, irrigation development projects in sub-Saharan Africa were more expensive and had lower economic rates of return than those in Asia and South America. Many lessons have been learned about design and construction of irrigation infrastructure, but little about water management.
Women and youth who are often marginalised and excluded from the development initiatives will be prioritised in the selection of farmers and project staff, for increased and sustainable project impact.
The anticipated longer term outcomes are increasing productivity and profitability through better management of water and nutrients on smallholder irrigation farms; sustainable water and salinity management; and improved economic returns from investments in irrigation infrastructure.
The project is grounded on social learning with respect to improving agricultural irrigation water productivity in Malawi and Tanzania through the use of an innovative monitoring and learning system. Being a new approach of promoting profitable irrigation in the selected countries, the project start-up activities have taken a longer period than initially anticipated. The activities undertaken to-date that form a foundation of project implementation include;
(a) Project inception and training - under this activity, the project was officially launched in Morogoro -Tanzania in June 2015 and key trainings conducted on the use of the innovative monitoring equipment notably the Chameleon and Wetting Front Detector. Other areas of training that the project has covered include; financial management and reporting, real time data collection and processing, the operational aspects of the Virtual Irrigation Academy and key elements of social learning.,
(b) Baseline data collection - the baseline data collection is underway and it aims at monitoring the performance tracking of the project. Key aspects that the baseline report will capture include; income levels of the target arming communities, production systems, existing of learning platforms, availability of markets for irrigated crops and social networks,
(c) Design of VIA - the Virtual Irrigation Academy that is aimed at facilitating social learning across participating partners and institutions has been designed and is being tested,
(d) Improvement of monitoring tools - the prototype Chameleon is continuously being improved with the aim of bringing down the cost of production and the price at the farmer level as well as improving its utility - being more user-friendly.