Investing in irrigation for more efficient sugarcane production in Tanzania

Due to changing rainfall patterns the production level of sugarcane is declining in the Tanzanian region Kilombero. Together with the Sugar Board of Tanzania, the Kilombero Sugar Company and the Kilombero Charitable Community Trust, Solidaridad will assist with the establishment of a pilot irrigation scheme.

The irrigation project in Tanzania is part of the Farmer Support Program started by Solidaridad.

Higher yields, better livelihoods

Recent reductions in yields have resulted in both reduced cane supply for the mill and income for the farmer. The introduction of irrigation is expected to have a significant impact on productivity and livelihood improvements with the potential to triple sugarcane yield. In the rainfed areas where irrigation has not yet been introduced, the aim is to double yield production through the introduction of better management practices and improved business and organizational skills.

The project is aiming to support around 8,000 smallholders (of which 3,000 are female headed households) with an average 1.5 hectares per household.

Setting a good example

A study of the whole 13,000 hectares of  smallholder land under sugarcane was undertaken to identify irrigation potential. A pilot scheme of 100 hectares was identified utilizing the bulk water infrastructure of an abandoned rice irrigation scheme.  

If the project is a success the irrigation scheme could be a great example for other parts of the Kilombero area, says Sven Sielhorst, international program manager sugarcane at Solidaridad: ‘The project offers a great possibility to see how an entire community can profit from irrigated sugarcane and the people in this community can influence how the project is established and managed. It could be a strong economic incentive for the whole region.’

More involvement in decision-making

A civil education program, including leadership training, will be developed to increase the local community’s involvement so that they can influence decision-making. The objective is to improve sustainable development and income generation for the community and to develop a system and program that can be rolled out to the wider community.

Addressing other problems in rain fed areas

The project is also addressing a broader scope of problems in the area such as poor quality planting material, low technical and business understanding and a lack of access to affordable credit. The irrigation project is therefor supported by comprehensive technical, business and organizational training
The investments will lead to increased income generation, improved livelihoods for the farmers in the Kilombero region and increased sugar production, meeting the national market deficit.