EFFICIENT IRRIGATION

Profile:

Groupement de Développement de l’Agriculture Biodynamique (GDAB)
Product focus: Dates
Location: Hazoua, Tunisia
Type: Small scale producer – 60 farmers
Fairtrade certified since: 2004
Contact: Said Maatoug – saidisadok@yahoo.fr (French) / Veronique Verlinden –v.verlinden@fairtradeafrica.net (English)

Challenge:

Agriculture consumes 80% of natural water resources in Tunisia. The sources the date farmers at GDAB rely on are two fossil water reserves, which due to very low recharge, are non-renewable. The scarcity of water resources in the area is worsened by factors such as the arid climate, groundwater salinity – caused by agricultural activities and inefficient management. Water scarcity has seriously affected the agricultural sector and led to a significant decline in farmers’ income.

Solution:

Before                                         After

To use the scare resources in a more sustainable way, GDAB decided to invest in an alternative irrigation method. In the past, GDAB relied on flood irrigation, the oldest method known and most widely used in date palm culture. It has, however, environmental disadvantages as it also irrigates areas where no palms are planted. Other disadvantages include the fact that it is high labour intensive and not well suited for sandy soils.

The new system would considerably reduce water losses due to infiltration and evaporation, without increasing the problem of soil salinity (the concentration of dissolved mineral salts in water). The technique is characterised by a localised water supply. Each palm – and cover crops – receives the required amount of water in a timely manner. The system also ensures the water does not reach the deeper soil levels in order to ensure proper root development of the date palms.

Cost:

The project was made possible through the help of GIZ. Calculations based on installation costs for a plot of 2 ha:

Primary network: USD 2,185
Secondary network: USD 12,340
Water tank: USD 3,175
Installation costs: USD 635
Total: USD 18,335

For a full breakdown, click here.

Result:

Although expensive in comparison to other irrigation systems, the benefits are many:

  • Minimum wastage of irrigation water
  • Irrigation area around date palms decreased to less than 20%
  • Improvement of the palm grove productivity and product quality
  • Improvement of biodiversity by introducing fruit production
  • Less labour intensive in a region where labour is scarce and expensive