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November 20, 2009

Only ten percent of Africa’s potential crop land is irrigated

Only ten percent of Africa’s potential crop land is irrigated compared with 26 and 44 percent in India and China respectively, according to crop scientist at Uganda’s Makerere University.

Crop scientists at the University said farmers in Africa do not irrigate their crops even during dry seasons, leading to poor yields.

If farmers want to cope with the changing climatic conditions especially droughts, they should adopt irrigation. Irrigating crops during droughts, even for scientifically improved crops, is important in case farmers want to achieve good yields.

Over the last 30 years, irrigation in Africa has increased by 1.2 per cent per year and now it is below one per cent per year. Irrigated land in Africa comprises 13.4 hectares and this is mainly in Egypt, they said.

This is the reason Egypt, a desert country, feeds countries in Africa including Uganda through exporting some of its farm products.

Most crops grown in Africa, particularly in Uganda need water, making irrigation necessary. Farmers here need to be sensitized about the importance of irrigation especially during this era of climate change, they added.

Farmers needs to use channel irrigation because this system is there to prevent deficit in food supply especially in times of drought. Biotechnologically-modified crops need irrigation as well but if we have the drought-resistant crops, then we shall need less water.

However, these irrigation systems are very expensive to maintain by an ordinary farmer and that is why the government has to come in and help them if we are to prioritise agriculture," he said.

A number of African countries including Uganda have engaged their scientists to conduct research on biotech crops by using tools such as tissue culture, finger printing and genetic engineering where DNA from a different specie is transferred to another to create a genetically modified organism.

This technology has created precise genetic products which are herbicide tolerant, drought, pest and disease resistant, and are of enhanced nutrition value for staple foods.

However, some societies in Africa have not welcomed the idea of the genetically modified crops because they believe they are toxic and therefore dangerous to human life.

However, crop scientists say that for Africa to adopt these new biotech varities, the research must be conducted by knowledgeable scientists who will be able to come up with valuable products.

Commodity Online

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