Irrigation System on subsistence farmers in the Melanesian region
Melanesia region comprises Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea. For a long time, Melanesian farmers in the region have practiced subsistence farming as a source of their livelihood. Because of the changing climate, and the region landscape, most farmers use irrigation schemes to support their practices of subsistence farming.
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Melanesian Irrigation systems are well organized. According to Dunford & Ridgell, (1997) subsistence farmers in the region have aligned their farming practices basing on irrigations requirements. One of the irrigation schemes is widely used in the region is Dani Irrigation.
Dani irrigation is a scheme practiced by Dani people living in the Melanesian highlands. Danis are famed for their extensive cultivation practices. Dani farmers use this form of irrigation scheme to support intensive cultivation of crops such as sweet potatoes, taro, and other supplementary crops grown in the region.
Dunford & Ridgell (1997) indicate that besides Dani irrigation schemes, Melanesia region has developed local irrigation methods. Mostly, these methods involve activities such asdigging ditches to help farmers tap water from small streams that pass under the valleys. Moreover, local irrigation method involves farmers digging channels to re-direct waters and creating raised contours in the field for holding water.This helps in retaining water in the fields.
Dunford & Ridgell (1997) illustrate several ways in which Melanesian farmers use ditches. They demonstrate that ditches are source of fertilizer; hence, farmers use the fertilizer to apply to their crops.
To reduce the incidence of soil erosion, and help conserve soil moisture, subsistence farmers use sharp wooden sticks to dig holes during planting of crops such as sweet potatoes. Dunford & Ridgell (1997) also point out that farmers stagger their planting practices; this ensures the crop matures on ayear-round basis without requiring storage. This measure guarantees constant water supply.
Southern Nile Farmers
Southern Nile subsistence farmers have over the ages been dependent on irrigation practices to grow their crops. Presently, most farmers have established small-scale irrigation schemes under self-help programs (Abate, 1994). The self-help programs have been critical in addressing farmers’ irrigation needs.
Despite new trends in farming practices, such as adopting new irrigation methods and farming practices in the southern region, most farmers still carry on with traditional irrigation practices. They view traditional irrigation methods as less costly because they are managed communally.
Despite many tangible benefits from using irrigation practice, some farmers, for example, those living in Ethiopian region have not fully aligned their irrigation systems and practices to reap from the waters of River Nile (Abate, 1994), which evidenced through variation in their cropping calendars, water usage patterns, the type of crops they are growing and the socio-economic trends in which they operate.
Besides, southern farmers use conventional river diversions as irrigation method. Consequently, they use hand operated shaduf and water wheels among others. These devices assist in conveying water into the fields. Other common methods include digging shallow wells along rivers and using spade irrigation.
Being practiced on a smaller scale, these systems encounters fewer problems than those experienced in large scale farming such as; farmers relying on organizations over control and remote management practices (Abate, 1994). hese methods are labor intensive and tiresome.
However, in recent times, they have noted the benefits of efficient irrigation strategies prompting them to acquire irrigation pumps. They have been driven by factors such as increasing pressure on farming land, production quotas, rainfall inconsistency and collective ownership of land.
Range of Foreign Aids Agencies
Various foreign aids organizations have been critical in supporting subsistence farming in various capacities. For example, in the Nile Basin, the German Ministry of Environment carried out a case study on the effects resulting from use of scarce resources of River Nile. The ministry asserted that Egypt, and the entire region using River Nile will face severe environmental security risk as a consequence (Lensink& Morrissey, 2000).
Additionally,The Word Bank, under the World Bank Integrated Irrigation Improvement, and Management Project has been instrumental in assisting subsistence farmers in Southern Nile region. The organization’s goal is to increase production and encourage sustainable use of water resources in the region.
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The organization views that most farmers are facing a growing need of River Nile water resource, hence, this will ultimately decrease its supply in the future. The organization is involved in activities such as developing and implementing integrated water management strategies, environmental management strategies, rehabilitating and improving irrigation and drainage systems in the region (Lensink& Morrissey, 2000).
Similarly, in Melanesia, United Nation Development Program and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Program, among other agencies are supporting the region significantly (Lensink& Morrissey, 2000). In addition to providing information on the best farming practices, they are supporting farmers through training, funding and designing underground irrigation system.
Their aim is to prevent drought in the future. Consequently, other regional agricultural bodies, in conjunction with the government are advising farmers on the best irrigation practices to use in the farms.
Abate, Z 1994,Water Resources Development in Ethiopia: An Evaluation of PresentExperience and Future Planning Concepts, Ithaca Press,Reading
Dunford, B&Ridgell, R 1997, Pacific Neighbors: The Islands of Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia, Bess Press, Honolulu
Lensink, R &Morrissey,O 2000, ‘Aid instability as a measure of uncertainty and the positive impact of aid on growth’, Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 36 no.3, pp. 31–49.