THE REAL COST OF IRRIGATION-FED SENEGALESE RICE
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CTA. 1991. THE REAL COST OF IRRIGATION-FED SENEGALESE RICE. Spore 36. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Irrigated land accounts for barely five percent of African rice grown, yet absorbs about 50% of state aid for agriculture. Between 1975 and 1981 each tonne of irrigation-fed cereal in the Sahel received 60 times more subsidy than the equivalent...
Irrigated land accounts for barely five percent of African rice grown, yet absorbs about 50% of state aid for agriculture. Between 1975 and 1981 each tonne of irrigation-fed cereal in the Sahel received 60 times more subsidy than the equivalent amount of rain-fed cereal. In the Senegal river valley, irrigation schemes have been set up to improve and ensure stable agricultural production, especially of rice. But these have caused considerable difficulties for local farmers, who have found that irrigation-fed production does not eliminate all risks. That is the opinion of Jean-Michel Yung of the Center de Cooperation Internationale de Recherche Agronomique pour le Developpement (CIRAD). Diseases and pests are still a threat and a poor harvest can be catastrophic when farmers have put so much capital into irrigation-fed agriculture. The overheads, water, fuel, seed, pesticides and fertilizers, are very heavy for these farmers, far more so than for those who use traditional methods. Any setback or delay can cause a significant drop in returns. Peasant farmers can no longer take traditional precautions against such risks if they grow on. irrigated; land. Their practices, which, technically simple, were based on a sound knowledge of their environment and the natural factors which may limit success. The rate of flow of the river may vary during the course of any given year, or from one year to the next, rainfall may fluctuate, but the farmers could take these in their account, their routines. If one crop did not produced the expected yield because of the weather then another could make up for it. Despite all this drawbacks irrigation still presents the best solution for arid regions, the only way forward for development and one means of preventing the rural exodus. With 400mm rain per annum the farmers of Niger cannot really expect to grow rice other than by irrigation schemes, even in zones where rain fed agriculture is possible, irrigation schemes improve the small-scale farmer's quality of life by bringing in extra income.
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