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In March 2019, a short course organized by Wise Futures in collaboration with the University of Manchester for 21 African irrigation professionals in the framework of the project on African Farmer-led irrigation development and the workshop on farmer-led irrigation development. The goal of this was to give professionals the tools and insights to engage productively with irrigation development in Africa, ranging from agribusinesses, public irrigation schemes and farmers’ irrigation initiatives. Famers’ initiatives were in the center of interest to all of us. By applying general lessons and insights from the lectures directly to Tanzanian, Algerian and Zimbabwean cases of irrigation development, we were learning from farmers’ experiences, trying to translate the interests and actions of irrigation engineers and farmers and make them speak the same language. In an interactive way, the workgroups allowed the participants to integrate contemporary issues into irrigation planning and management.

Rice field irrigated from an unlined canal. (Credit: Mohamed Naouri)

A field visit to Mushi was organized and the farmers practicing irrigation were met. We were interested in the irrigation design and how famers participate in the construction of the canals and how they maintain them. We saw farmers irrigating rice from the unlined canal and in the same time taking water outside the scheme using moto-pumps to irrigate the tomato during the dry season.

Torn off drip tapes and farmers using surface irrigation in Tanzania. (Credit: Mohamed Naouri)

A drip irrigation scheme using groundwater with a highly advanced equipment was visited. The pumping station was sophisticated with all equipment that an irrigation engineer may want. However, once at the farm level, we observed that the drip tapes were torn off and the farmers were using surface irrigation. This situation reminded us of Biskra (Algeria) when the conventional drip irrigation systems were introduced by the state, which did not match the farmers needs at that time. It shows how advanced -from an engineer perspective- irrigation systems may not always be compatible with particular contexts and also how important is the support network for such kind of technologies to maintain, develop and adapt the technology to the farmer’s evolving needs.

Farmers in Tanzania using surface irrigation (Credit: Mohamed Naouri)

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