Challenging but possible
Hara traditional irrigation is found in Endamehoni wereda, southern zone of Tigray. The site is located in one of the steep valises in the region which is not convenient for development intervention, however, the project in collaboration with its stakeholders’ is able to plan and implement the challenging irrigation project in the area. The project aims to contribute towards o food security enhancement by constructing demonstrative irrigation infrastructure in the inconvenient and neglected area and support land less youths to get irrigable land in their locality.
Innovative nature of the project was constructing impressive irrigation infrastructures which are 13 meter suspended and 18 meter height concrete irrigation crossing, constructing of 32 meter wide simple irrigation take off and 1251 meter lined masonry irrigation canal inside consecutive caves and between huge boulders within the valley where galloping type of flood is common. Uniqueness of the project is using some vegetation remnant as indicator for proper canal alignment and trench excavation, constructing canal along the hillside where there are big boulders and Rocky River side, use of caves in the area as main store and office of the construction project and support land less youths to get irrigable land are some of the innovativeness of the project.
This irrigation project was initiated to support and work with land less youths residing in the area who are dependent on their family to get farming land for their survival. However, this problem was not only the family problem it was also of the country and the government as whole. To contribute towards the government effort to resolve this problem the local community and government has distributed relatively fertile hill side to the land less youths to grow high value crops using the constructed irrigation infrastructure.
Even though, there is land scarcity in the area the project is able to establish horticultural plot along the hillside by constructing well designed bench terrace structure and the horticultural plot is serving as adaptation trial center for selected fruits obtained from Holleta and Melkassa agricultural research centers.
This exemplary work is supporting the extension service link between researchers and the farmers’ and the government effort in allocating fertile and convenient hillsides to land less youths to grow high value corps in the area. In order to stabilize the bench terrace which is about two meters height the project has introduced and established vetiver grass along the bunds.
The project activities were planned with active participation of local stakeholders and indigenous knowledge in irrigation infrastructure construction was considers in all steps of the intervention. The local government has developed good experience in how to plan and construct small scale irrigation infrastructure with the available limited human, material and financial resource they have. At this time the local community and local government has started to construct similar irrigation infrastructures in the wereda and the wereda is becoming model and center of beast experience in the region.
The issue of sustainability is taken as one of the critical point in rural development and is properly addressed in all steps of this project. The community has developed water use by low and elect elders as father of the irrigation scheme who is responsible to set water use time schedule when each farmer can take irrigation water for his field and this system is supported by local government administrative system. The irrigation father is also responsible to organize and lead timely irrigation infrastructure maintenance, clean silted up canal and local community consultative meetings on issues of irrigation.
The project is able to construct different irrigation infrastructures (32 meter Irrigation take off, 1251 meter canal, 13 meter wide suspended irrigation crossing, drop structures and retaining wall) with a budget of 502,000 birr to irrigate 79 ha of land owned by not less than 271 farmers of which 84 of them are youth farmers. The community has contributed a lot to reduce the project construction cost, among the significant contributions are the daily labelers were working at a daily payment rate of 30 birr which is 15 birr lesser than the local market price, local construction material was obtained freely except collection and transportation cost, all the working staff was working at list 1:30 hours extra time daily without payment and the local government support was a lot.
To reduce unnecessary expenses, the project has prepared simple and cost effective design appropriate to the site and critically avoids bulky structures, select appropriate take off point and irrigation canal rout this construction approach has significantly reduce construction cost. The strong construction management has also contributed a lot. Despite of the project expense, currently the construction cost is estimated 1.23 million birr which is above twofold of the project expense.
Community ownership, network & Partnership
To ensure sustainability of the irrigation infrastructure the project the project has worked to ensure community ownership, establish strong net work and partnership among all stakeholders and has developed phase in and phase out strategies of which the significant ones are:-
- The project was designed based on the felt need of the community
- Before the project planning and implementation the project has arranged experience sharing visit to community representatives, local government officials and other development stake holders in the locality to the site where EOC-DICAC has performed beast traditional irrigation improvement project which was selected as beast NGo practice of defeating poverty organized by CCRDA in 2012.
- All stakeholders were participating in all phases of the project cycle
- Different trainings in community mobilization, irrigation water management, improved horticultural practice and natural resource management were given by the project in collaboration with wereda sector offices.
- At this time the local government is insisting our organization to perform similar projects together with the local government budget.
- At the moment this project performance is serving as demonstration site for the region
The community and the government bodies at wereda, zone and region level are taking the project experience in their plan and working to scale-up and replicate it in all part of the region. Hence, the project has started influencing the government budget allocation and werdas are allocating sufficient budget for irrigation development projects.
The area is becoming center of experience sharing (The wereda administrator & the project staffs explain about the project to regional delegates
The regional water bureau has recognized this cost effective, simple, scalable and sustainable development intervention and is strengthening our alliance for further partnership. Even the federal Agency for NGOs and civic society has arranged field visit to the site and they witness how our project is addressing the felt need of the community and performing proper project which has strong contribution to GTP.
Even though it is early to say more about impact there are encouraging indications of the project positive social, economic and environmental impacts. The hill side distribution enables the 84 land less youth to get farm land, the constructed irrigation infrastructure enables to increase the irrigable area by 79 ha and the soil and water conservation practice done in the hillside has significantly reduced the effect of soil erosion in the site.
- The bear hill side vegetation cover has improved
- Prove that committed and convinced community can split huge boulders without explosive and excavate foundation pits without excavator with his traditional equipment
- Land degradation has significantly reduced
- Area of irrigable land increased.
- Efficient irrigation practice introduced
- Land less youths get irrigable land and Rate of unemployment reduced
- Feeding habit and house hold income has improved
Gender Sensitivity & Inclusiveness
Basically the project was working in fever of the disadvantaged part of the community, who are mainly land less female headed households and youngsters. In collaboration with the local government the project has managed to secure irrigable land to 84 (61 male and 23 female) landless youths. Irrigation is new intervention in the area this enables the community to grow different vegetables for their home consumption and source of income mainly for women. In the inconvenient topography women were to travel the river valley down at least two wise a day to fetch water from the river which was tedious and time consuming but now they are able to get water from the irrigation canal along their residence area.
Secret of the success: The project was based on the felt need of the community; The project addresses the disadvantaged part of the community; Existence of strong partnership at all level; Committed community and project staff; Strong support from local government; and moreover the Long lasting experience of EOC-DICAC to work in remote areas and face challenge.