Irrigation Water Management Practices in Smallholder Vegetable Crops Production: The Case of the Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia
AbstractSmallholder irrigated vegetable production in the Central Rift Valley region of Ethiopia is instrumental in ensuring the year-round availability of fresh vegetables in the local market in the country. However, a number of problems constrain irrigated vegetable production in the region. Therefore, asurvey was conducted with the objectives of assessing smallholder irrigated vegetable production practices and identifying factors associated with problems of irrigation water management. The survey was conducted in December 2011. A multistage purposive sampling procedure was employed to select sample districts, peasant associations, and sample respondents that grew vegetables using small-scale irrigation. Key informants were interviewed and group discussions were conducted with smallholder vegetable farmers. Data were collected on household irrigation knowledge, experiences, skills, irrigation water sources as well as on irrigation water management practices such as methods, time, depth and frequency of irrigation. Data were also collected on supplemental irrigation practices under rain-fed vegetable production. In addition, household perceptions on the environmental impacts of irrigation, on-farm irrigation water related challenges, and related information were also recorded. About 16.5% of the respondents indicated that their knowledge and skills on irrigation water management practices were mainly drawn from experiences of trial and error.About 38.1% of the respondents indicated that they irrigated their vegetable fields both in the morning and the afternoon whereas 35.1% replied that they irrigated only in the afternoon. A large number of the respondents (89.6%) replied that they determined irrigation intervals based on specific crop needs. About 90.9% of the respondents replied that they applied enough irrigation water up to the point where the water level reached the furrow basin head. The survey result also indicated that 51.7% of the respondents practiced supplemental irrigation when shortage of moisture occurred in the soil during the rainy season as well at the end of the rainy season. One hundred percent of the respondents replied that they faced problems commonly related with the use of irrigation, namely, soil salinity, waterlogging, soil erosion and degradation, sedimentation, and build-up of pests and diseases. In conclusion, the survey results revealed that extension services on irrigation water management were almost non-existent, and the smallholder vegetable farmers managed irrigation water merely by intuition.Therefore, participatory on-farm irrigation research and extension on irrigation water management practices should be formulated to generate appropriate technologies for enhanced and sustainable irrigated vegetable production in the region.
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