THE Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperative, Eng. Christopher Chiza has reiterated the need for promotion of irrigation schemes in the Lake Zone regions, to be able to yield more food in the absence of enough rainfall.
He directed local authorities in the area to put in place irrigation scheme plans so that residents in the area could produce enough food for their families and surplus to sell.
Eng. Chiza made the call during three days official tour of Lake Zone regions of Mwanza, Mara and Simiyu last year. The tour aimed to resolve endless verbal clashes between politicians and cotton experts.
He said because the regions rely heavily on rainfall for crop production, adequate irrigation methods were crucial for the stabilization of agriculture. He said irrigation will promote food security, productivity and incomes for farmers.
Although Lake Zone regions have irrigation schemes in some areas, more were needed especially in Mwanza Region where there is rain scarcity. The Mwanza Regional Commissioner, Eng. Evarist Ndikilo recently said that the region has potential areas for irrigation schemes to cover 36,215 hectares.
"Current irrigation schemes cover only 1,008 hectares which is about 3 per cent of the arable land in the region," said Eng. Ndikilo. The RC noted that new irrigation schemes to cover 600 hectares at Katunguru in Sengerema District and 300 hectares at Mahiga in Kwimba District were in different stages of construction.
He said construction for irrigation infrastructure for Magurukenda (300 hectares) in Sengerema District at 200 hectares at Miyogwezi in Ukerewe District and 400 hectares at Musukuma area in Sengerema District were also underway.
Eng. Ndikilo added that other new irrigation schemes to cover 400 hectares at Igenge in Misungwi District, 300 hectares at Luhala in Kwimba District, 600 hectares at Isole/Kishinda in Sengerema District and 200 hectares in Lutubiga in Magu District would be put in place.
The Mwanza Regional Agriculture officer, Mr Ndalo Kulwijila said that there were potential areas for irrigation schemes covering 36,315.9 hectares in the region, but only 1007.8 hectares were covered. He said a National Irrigation Development Plan and an Agriculture Policy have been put in place to help develop the country's irrigation system.
Tanzania's irrigated agriculture is dominated by small-holder farmers and interventions made by rehabilitating and modernizing irrigation schemes have raised productivity of various crops significantly.
Crops which have shown higher yields after irrigation schemes include paddy which increased from 2 tonnage per hectare to 4.5 tonnage per hectare, maize which rose from 1.5 tonnage per hectare to 5 tonnes, onion increased from 5 tons per hectare to 26 tons and tomato that increased from 8 tons per hectare to 25 tons.
Other crops being irrigated include sugar cane, tea, coffee and flowers. Sale of these crops in the local market and export contributes to growth of personal as well as the national economy and poverty reduction. Water is the essence of life and a catalyst to socio-economic development in all countries.
Despite being a critical resource, around the world water resources are under threat mostly from pollution, overuse and catchment degradation. Lake Zone regions as Eng. Chiza pointed out have to direct their attention to the irrigation schemes and allocate adequate financial and human resources required for its development and management. Other resources that also need attention are land and energy. There is a link between development and utilization of these resources.