Water for irrigation a major concern for some small holder farmers in Chisamba

May 10, 2023

By Freeman Mwenge

Some small holder farmers in Lifwambula area of Chisamba district are concerned about the diminishing yearly amount of water available for irrigation which had affected crop yields and leaving them vulnerable to persistent food shortages.

A small scale farmer who has been living in Lifwambula area since 2000 told NAIS that the area had been receiving less rainfall with each passing year forcing him and other farmers to abandon their sugarcane and vegetable fields.

Ackson Mulungushi observed that when water for irrigation was available he was able to grow sugarcanes for sell to a larger market in Lusaka.

He said in recent years it had become difficult for him to grow crops during the dry season due to limited water for irrigation forcing him to abandon his sugarcane field.  

Mr. Mulungushi moved into the area close to the banks of the perennial Lwamabwe stream in the year 2000 to grow sugarcanes and vegetables after his retirement from active employment.

“I had a very big sugarcane plantation on my land here but due to lack of water it is all gone. What I have seen is that this time the rainy season lasts just about two months. The land dries up faster too and it is no longer possible to grow sugarcanes,” he said.

Mr. Mulungushi further said in the past small-scale farmers would construct makeshift dams across Lwamabwe stream to trap water for irrigation during the dry season.

“We used to grow vegetables all year round back then. Although it was illegal to make dams on Lwamabwe stream, I would make a dam here to trap the water and plant sugarcanes and vegetables,” He said.

Recently, more farmers in Lifwambula area have been depending on rain fed agriculture due to limited water for irrigation.

To assist farmers like Ackson Mulungushi start over, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture in Chisamba through the Expansion of Community Based Small Holder Irrigation Development Project (e-COBSI).

With the ultimate goal of e-COBSI being to enhance the food security of Zambia by promoting community-based smallholder irrigation schemes, Ministry of Agriculture officers from the Technical Services Branch and the department of Agribusiness visited small holder farmers of Lifwambula area.

The aim of the visit was to support the community to design, construct, operate and maintain simple and permanent irrigation facilities for at least 20 small holder farmers in Lifwambula.

Chola Bwalya is Agricultural Specialist for the Ministry of Agriculture in Chisamba whose role on the project is to promote and increase irrigated land through the provision of irrigation infrastructure for small holder farmers.

Ms. Bwalya told NAIS that her department was in the area to construct a simple dam called a weir.

She said a weir was the most economical method of supplying water to small holder farmers in Lifwambula during the dry season.

“We conducted an assessment to find perennial streams in this area. Our aim was to discover simple community driven answers to the water challenges here. We looked at the area itself how big is the area and when water is provided or diverted into their fields they will be able to grow their crops on a large scale,” she said.

As part of support to small holder farmers, a training in business marketing was conducted to prepare the farmers for the market.

After taking part in constructing the weir, a beneficiary Given Mwenda said the simple method of construction had given hope to the farmers as they would now be able to grow a variety of crops for Sell and for home consumption.

“We have seen that this method of construction is simple and easy enough for this community to do. So we are happy about what you people have brought here,” Ms. Mwenda said.

She said most families had been finding it difficult to include vegetables as part of their meals but that this would soon end.

Ms. Mwenda thanked JICA and the Ministry of Agriculture for the initiative.

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