Monitoring & Evaluation
Water savings, increased yields, and income gains are among the measured impact of drip irrigation.
Micro-irrigation technology had been introduced in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for the first time in the 1970s. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, installed drip irrigation systems deteriorated and new, commercially-supplied drip irrigation systems were too sophisticated and thus neither suitable nor affordable for smallholder farmers.
Consequently, in 2010 there was no drip irrigation technology commercially available. That year, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, under guidance from iDE, began promoting affordable gravity-fed drip irrigation through the SUPW project in all provinces of Kyrgyzstan and the Sughd province of Tajikistan.
First data from pilot demo plots in Tajikistan in 2013 revealed a significant impact in the case of apricot orchards. When young trees were irrigated by drip, and thus less exposed to irrigation water stress, the first fruit harvest occurred after only three years rather than four to five years with conventional furrow and rain-fed irrigation. Results indicated an average harvest increase of around 30 percent per tree in terms of weight, in addition to the considerably faster growth and one to two years of additional income.
In 2013, an analysis between drip and furrow irrigation on open-field tomato cultivation in the dry-continental climate of Osh revealed the following results:
- Yield improvements: around 100 percent (1.5t/100m² vs. 0.7t/100m²)
- Gross income gain: 750 percent
- Water savings: Two-thirds of the water is saved (33.8m³/100m² vs. 100.3m³/100m²)
A possible reason for the much higher gross income was that, with drip irrigation, farmers are able to plant tomato seedlings an entire month earlier (mid-March, in comparison to mid-April). Thus, they are able to harvest a full month earlier, when market prices are higher. Moreover, the crop quality is better due to a more regular irrigation regime and thus the produce fetches higher prices in local markets.
In terms of market access, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are fortunate contexts to work in for farmers, since they can easily find buyers for cash crops, for which there is a large and growing national and international demand. In addition, winter prices can exceed summer ones by up to 20 times, because in winter nearly all fresh vegetables are imported. This is also reflected in high growth rates of over 250 percent in the greenhouse sector during the period 2007-2012 in both countries.
The aggregate effect of these field results suggests high enough returns on investment at the farm level in order to amortize a drip irrigation system within one to two production cycles.