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African Union European Union
Report on the African Union - European Union Regional Workshop on Irrigation Farming for small and medium scale farmers

November 18-20, 2003
Lilongwe, Malawi

1 December 2003

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Executive Summary

The African Union-European Union Regional Workshop on Irrigation Farming for Small and Medium Scale Farmers was held in Lilongwe, Malawi from November 18-20, 2003.

The objectives of the workshop were to:
  1. provide a forum for irrigation experts from the SADC Member States to discuss and review appropriate irrigation technologies that are effective and suitable for small and medium scale households, and are transforming the living standards of rural communities in Malawi,

  2. provide an opportunity for delegates to conduct a field trip to some irrigation schemes to appreciate their effectiveness, and identify special attributes that make them easy to use and affordable by farmers,

  3. afford the delegates the opportunity to interact and share experiences with technology developers, and discuss any improvements, or adjustments, that can be made to enhance their effectiveness, and

  4. develop practical strategies for the implementation of irrigation schemes in the Southern Africa Region, and adopt common approaches to enhance food production through the introduction of irrigation farming across the Southern Africa Region.


Seven keynote and expert presentations were made by the delegates from regional organizations based in the SADC Region and Malawi. The presentations focussed on several issues including:
  1. a new approach to food security that integrates food aid and food security objectives in a broader framework of poverty reduction, and emphasizes on capacity building of national organizations, safety net programmes, enhancing information systems and reinforcing monitoring and evaluation exercises,

  2. the current state of over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture, lack of irrigation culture and lack of crop diversification and intensification in time and space,

  3. highlighting agriculture as the key sector for achieving economic growth,

  4. small scale irrigation initiatives of the GoM/EU Public Works Programme,

  5. promoting irrigation culture in the way rain-fed production systems have been inculcated in people's livelihood,

  6. implementing small-scale irrigation projects, and

  7. giving full support to irrigation farming, and lobbying for a 10% budgetary allocation to agriculture, because the agriculture sector will remain the engine of economic growth for Africa in general, and the SADC Region in particular, for the next decade and beyond.


All the twelve delegates presented country papers, which highlighted:
  1. country profile in relation to natural resource endowment,

  2. the current status of irrigation initiatives,

  3. current efforts at implementing various irrigation programmes, and

  4. major problems that constrain irrigated agriculture. It was clear from the presentations that all SADC Members States are endowed with abundant natural resources, which are currently under-utilized and under-exploited, and that the problems and constraints encountered by medium and small- scale farmers are the same and cut across all SADC Member States. This implies that common strategies can be applied across the region, with minimal site-specific modifications.


Field visits were made to Kagombe and Kambewa in Lilongwe, and Tilime and Tikondwe Freedom Gardens in Dowa, with the purpose of observing and appreciating different types of irrigation systems used and the type of crops grown. At each of the three irrigation sites, the delegates were briefed on
  1. how the farmers' clubs were formed,

  2. how to assemble, use and maintain treadle pumps, (iii) how to make and use compost manure,

  3. how to prepare seed beds,

  4. how to plant, apply mineral fertilizers, weed, etc,

  5. how to apply and irrigation water

  6. how the farm inputs (hoes, shovels, fertilizers and insecticides) were acquired, and

  7. how they market the produce. At Tikondwe Freedom Gardens, individually owned by Dr. G. Chinkhuntha, delegates were briefed on a cleverly designed gravity fed irrigation system that uses narrow channels to irrigate several crops, including maize fruit trees, vegetables, herbs, bananas and spices using on-farm recycled organic manures only.


Lessons learnt from paper presentations, group discussions and field visits provided an excellent avenue to distil information and come up with detailed strategies and critical issues that need immediate and urgent attention. These included:
  1. the introduction of irrigated agriculture in the whole SADC Region,

  2. expansion of smallholder irrigation farming,

  3. water harvesting and storage, and

  4. creating an enabling political environment and the commitment of all SADC Member Sates. The way forward for the medium and small scale irrigation farmers in the SADC Region is to implement all the strategies that address the these critical issues in a holistic and coordinated manner.


After three days of hard work, the delegates made the following recommendations:
  1. Re-confirmed that irrigation should remain a high priority SADC Member States agenda,

  2. member countries to implement irrigation strategies with urgency, so as to double production by the year 2015,

  3. member countries to lobby for at least a 10% allocation of their budgetary resources to support the agriculture sector, hence irrigation,

  4. member countries to enhance networking and collaboration among SADC Member States,

  5. member countries to inventory the availability of, and access to, irrigation technologies and facilities,

  6. NEPAD to facilitate the development of a concept document on networking among small scale irrigation farmers

  7. member countries to facilitate the formation of farmers' organisations,

  8. member countries to enhance human resource development and capacity building that includes training for both farmers and professionals,

  9. member countries to make a deliberate effort to support individual farmers skills development,

  10. member countries to provide commodity specific marketing information and infrastructure to enable small scale irrigation farmers effectively compete on the open markets,

  11. member countries to promote and institutionalise water harvesting and storage practices

  12. member countries agreed that irrigation culture should be inculcated in prevailing production systems through awareness public campaigns,

  13. the establishment of an "Irrigation Day" to commemorate the importance irrigation as an integral component of the food security and poverty eradication strategy in the SADC Region, in particular, and Africa in general.



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