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The world has not reached a level where we can say that there is a global water shortage. However, there is an escalating shortage of fresh water compared to society’s demand and use.
Irrigation refers to the artificial use of water to assist in agriculture and is important in the suppression of weeds especially in grain fields and in the deterrence of soil hardening. This paper looks at the effective application of on-farm irrigation in the face of water scarcity and proposes an action plan of a policy approach that can be used to improve efficiency of irrigation systems.
The Problem of Irrigation and Water Scarcity
The ever-increasing pressure put on the available water resources by domestic use, industrial production and agricultural production is a major concern for policy makers. There is a gradual degradation of watersheds that support water reserves. Soil washed by erosion from uncovered hillsides clogs irrigation reservoirs and dams (Fereres and Soriano 148). All these are made worse by inappropriate irrigation methods that trigger salinity, soil erosion, waterlogging, and pollution of the scarce water reservoirs.
Salinity results from a mixture of bad drainage and elevated vaporization rates, which lead to an increased concentration of salts on agricultural land (Hillel 7). Irrigation water has an amount of dissolved salt, which is deposited in the soil during irrigation. Though there are other causes of salinity such as soil drainage, the major cause is poor irrigation technique. Waterlogging happens when excess water is applied in irrigation systems that have limited natural drainage.
To say that the world is dependent on agriculture is an understatement. With the extreme climate change and unpredictable rainfall, it seems irrigation is our only hope for sustainable agricultural production. However, the sustainability of any irrigation system must consider water conservation and efficiency of the method.
Existing Policies on Efficient Water Use at the Farm Level
Irrigated farming is a major contributor towards food production. It is also an important source of employment not only in the farm, but also in industries that manufacture irrigation equipment. Most policies, such as the one adopted in Samoa assert that the roles of rain-dependent agriculture should be determined and quantified.
The agricultural policy in Samoa emphasizes the need to increase rain-fed agricultural land in improving food production. Although this is a very valuable insight, it is not easily achievable in this century since most policies prevent agricultural practices in major towns irrespective of the rainfall reliability in these towns.
Instead of focusing on rainfall, the author of this paper believes that the policy should emphasize the application of sustainable irrigation systems in agriculture. The existing systems can be improved to prevent land degradation and depletion of the scarce water sources.
Irrigation policies need to be compatible with the current socioeconomic situations. In this era of climate change politics, an effective policy needs to be updated to meet the requirements set by the national and international environmental agencies. National and international political pressures can prevent the execution of practical irrigation reforms.
Suggestions for Policy Improvement
An effective policy on irrigation focuses on small-scale as well as large-scale irrigation (Cai, McKinney and Rosegrant 3). Samoa’s policy on irrigation should be improved so to reduce the farmers’ dependence on rain. Though an effective policy has provisions for rain-fed agriculture, it is not over-dependent on rain.
The policy should devise ways of responsibly using the available resources as it aims at trapping and conserving rain water. It must also recognize the interdependent nature of water as a resource. In doing so, each irrigation policy developed by Samoa should consider the impact of such a policy on the global water reserve.
Most developing countries such as Samoa do not have effective training programs for farmers and stakeholders in the agricultural industry. In Samoa, for instance, most farmers are not properly educated and do not understand the technical languages used in most of the training sessions.
This can be changed by introducing proper training of farmers that include the use of local languages. The role of monitoring and evaluation is also overlooked in the application of the policy. The policy model proposed here pays attention to training as an integral step in the effective implementation of a policy.
To prevent waterlogging, it is necessary to observe the levels of water in the soil at the beginning of a project. This enables the implementation of remedial procedures before much harm is done to the soil. Artificial drainage is also recommended for improving water flow during irrigation. Constant monitoring of the water level in the ground also helps in envisaging drainage necessities.
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The policy changes can be implemented in the plan outlined in this table.
|Objective: Formulation of a practical strategy for the management of irrigation water for sustainable development in agriculture|
|Strategy||Responsibility||Timeframe||Notes||Expected results||Source of funds|
|Identification of the problems facing irrigation and proposed solutions||Community local leaders||Two months||Community participation will be mobilized using radio advertisements and local leaders.||Community members will come up with genuine problems that affect them at grass root level.||Ministry of Agriculture|
|Identification of a program||Crop advisory officer||One year||The Ministry of Agriculture will conduct feasibility studies to come up with a practical solution.||A sustainable solution will be identified.||Ministry of Agriculture|
|Objective: Implementation of the new irrigation system|
|Activity||Responsibility||Timeframe||Notes||Expected results||Source of funds|
|Training||Officials from the department of agriculture and agents from non-governmental organizations||Three months||The language used should be simple since most of the farmers have low levels of education.||Farmers will acquire an understanding of the technical and mechanical requirements of the new system.||Ministry of Agriculture|
|Adoption of the program||Farmers||If the system meets the required standards and is approved, it can be adopted by farmers. Incentives such as reduced cost of machinery and mechanical assistance can be used to encourage adoption.||Ministry of Agriculture|
|Objective: Assessing the system’s progress and failures|
|Activity||Responsibility||Timeframe||Notes||Expected results||Source of funds|
|Monitoring and evaluation||Evaluation experts||One month, but is continued after the system is adopted||Evaluation is important in establishing the successes and failures of the policy and suggesting improvements. This stage must also involve community participation. Monitoring and evaluation programs should assess the quality of water used and the impact it has on agriculture.||The outcomes of such implementation will be used to minimize the degree of water pollution and wastage.||Ministry of Agriculture|
Sustainable irrigation is very important for continued food production and in ensuring that we do not deplete the available water resources. Soil maintenance also determines the irrigation system used. An effective policy must take these factors into consideration as well as the national and international politics surrounding irrigation and water.
Fereres, Elias and Marı´a Soriano. “Deficit Irrigation for Reducing Agricultural Water Use” Journal of Experimental Botany, 58.2 (2006): 147-159. Print.
Cai, Ximing, Daene C. McKinney and Mark W. Rosegrant 2001, Sustainability Analysis for Irrigation Water Management: Concepts, Methodology, and Application to the Aral Sea Region. PDF file. Web.
Hillel, Daniel. Salinity Management for Sustainable Irrigation: Integrating Science, Environment, and Economics, Washington, DC: World Bank Publications, 2000. Print.