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Central University of Technology (2001)

Evaluation of irrigation management practices of barley farmers in the Taung irrigation scheme

Kokome JE

Titre : Evaluation of irrigation management practices of barley farmers in the Taung irrigation scheme

Auteur : Kokome JE

Université de soutenance : Central University of Technology

Grade : Master of Technology (MT) 2001

Résumé
Although there is soil available for crop production in South Africa, the production of barley is limited to certain areas of the country due to restrictions on water, more specifically, irrigation water. It is therefore essential to concentrate on the promotion of barley production in the Taung irrigation scheme because the necessary and required scarce resources are available. The available resources should be used effectively to benefit the Taung farming communities. The 3500 hectares cultivated by the farming community should be utilised properly to alleviate the poverty in the area. This study investigated the irrigation practices of barley farmers in the Taung irrigation scheme. The aim of the study is to help farmers in the irrigation scheme to irrigate according to crop water requirements, soil depth/ water holding capacity, and the money available for centre pivot maintenance and electricity usage. The canals that enter Taung, more especially the north canal, should have flow measuring structures at the inlet of Dam One, as well as at the lower outlets to the pump-dams. Estimations of the amount of water that is allocated to Taung are based directly on the available arable hectares in the Taung area, and not on the water requirements of the envisaged crops. This provision of water is supposedly based on the relationship of trust that exists between the Department of Water Affairs and the scheme farmers. There is, however, nobody who monitors the flow of water in the canals on its way to Dam One to prevent water theft. Nobody is sure of how much water is lost because of wood, tree branches and dead animals. In order to save on water wastage and operating expenses, there should be better water management.

To restore national and international competitiveness, the Taung irrigation scheme management authorities, the Department of Agriculture, as well as the tribal authority concerned will have to review the management and use of the irrigation scheme by the farming communities. While it is accepted that the introduction of centre pivots represents an improvement, it is conceded that this development alone could not act as a primary growth vehicle for the irrigation scheme. The irrigation scheme requires immediate attention to grow economically ; there is not enough time to wait while farmers debate the merits of what constitutes the best irrigation management practices. One solution entails that the authorities transfer the right of land ownership to the farmers/respondents. The respondents must also be given the responsibility to maintain the infrastructure (centre pivots, roads) and clean the canals and dams. It is clear that the community should be actively involved in generating their own development programs, and that they should also develop their capacity to do so. Respondents should have no misgivings about the fact that all practices are intertwined ; they all affect one another. Trying to correct one practice does not mean that others should be neglected. Working on the nitrogen problem does not mean that one should not irrigate correctly or omit control of insect pests. Irrigation is one of the most important practices in barley production and should be performed correctly to obtain quality malting barley. To achieve this goal, money has to be spent on equipment like neutron probes and/or tension meters to determine the available water in the soil. Southern Associated Maltsters has gone to great lengths in this regard and has contracted a private company that uses neutron probes, which are checked on a weekly basis by the University of Pretoria. The producer must use the recommended quantity of water as determined by the neutron probes and the tension meters. It remains the producers’ responsibility to see to it that the quality of their malting barley meets the required grading specifications, because low quality and low quantity will result in low income for them. The resources, strategies and skills required to overcome irrigation problems illustrate the need for a well-developed water management system. Given the chance, farmers will utilise the available human resources to develop an accurate and understandable irrigation scheduling system. The need for optimum water management is emphasised by the fact that Southern Associated Maltsters has contracted the University of Pretoria to monitor water usage. This gives the barley farmer access to external expertise and secondary information. A long-term irrigation programme that includes the observations of farmers is thus needed.

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