Conventional irrigation systems, such as channel irrigation and wild flooding tend to waste
water as large quantities are supplied to the field in one go, most of which just flows over the
crop and runs away without being taken up by the plants.
Micro irrigation is an approach to irrigation that keeps
the water demand to a minimum. It has been driven by
commercial farmers in arid regions of the United States
of America and Israel in farming areas where water is
Typically, these commercial irrigation systems consist of
a surface or buried pipe distribution network using
emitters supplying water directly to the soil at regular
intervals along the pipework. They can be permanent or
Many parts of the world are now using micro irrigation
technology. The systems used by large commercial
companies are generally quite complex with an
emphasis on reducing the amount of labour involved.
Small-scale framers in developing countries have been
reluctant to take up micro irrigation methods due to the
initial investment required for the equipment.
A number of organisations have looked at ways to
simplify and reduce the cost of micro irrigation resulting
in the approaches of drip irrigation and pipe irrigation.
Figure 1: Manduru Unit,
Maragwa. Kenya Practical
Action staff demonstrate drip
irrigation. ©Practical Action/Shaun
For these small-scale irrigation systems not only should the technical aspects of the system
be considered such as:
access to reliable water sources
a secure and well-fenced garden
basic gardening skills
the crops grown
The social aspects should also be of concern to ensure the irrigation system will be of benefit.
The social and economical factors will include:
capital and financial management; credit facilities
the availability of external services
market opportunities for the produce
willingness to show other farmers the technology
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