Irrigation and food security: current status and research priorities in Tanzania
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Agriculture forms the backbone of the Tanzanian economy. Approximately 85% of the population live in the rural sector. The sector contributes about 50% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and approximately 80% of the total export earnings (Msambichaka et al., 1983; Tanzania, 1987). The performance of the sector will therefore determine the capacity to import capital and other goods required for investment and consumption. The objectives of irrigation policy are to increase national income; modernise agriculture; stabilize farmers’ incomes; expand agricultural output; stabilize food supplies; and solve specific local problems (Tanzania, 1983; FAO, 1987). Irrigation is practiced in all stages of production technology, but in varying degrees of importance and sophistication. Traditional irrigation is common in some areas of the country such as Kilimanjaro, Kilombero, Arusha, Mbeya, and the Lake Victoria zone. These small-scale schemes were based on gravitation and traditionally-constructed control works. Water management and control were exercised through local and village governments. Crops grown under traditional irrigation include paddy, maize, bananas, coffee, and some legumes and vegetables. Modem large-scale irrigation started around the 1930’s (FAO, 1987) with the introduction of estate agriculture, particularly for the production of sugarcane, coffee, tea, cotton, and paddy. Today most of the sugarcane is produced on estates under irrigation.