SCRALA Project Launches Tauya Irrigation Scheme Amidst Drought Crisis in Zambia

The Green Climate Funded SCRALA project is empowering small-scale farmers by promoting food security and income generation.

June 6, 2024
Hon Rueben Mtolo commissioning the Tauya Irrigation Scheme in Chirundu

Hon Rueben Mtolo, Minister of Agriculture, commissioning the Tauya Irrigation Scheme in Chirundu

Image captured by: Mulapwa Mukople/UNDP Zambia

In Zambia, the impact of climate change on smallholder farmers has been longstanding, given their reliance on rain-fed agriculture for sustenance. This dependency has rendered them particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in weather patterns, disrupting agricultural production and consequently jeopardizing their livelihoods. 

Smallholder farmers, livestock keepers, and community members relying on natural water sources and shallow wells are among the hardest hit by these climatic changes. 

The 2018/2019 rainy season was especially harsh, with severe drought affecting 2.3 million people and exacerbating food insecurity by driving up food prices due to reduced agricultural yields.

Subsequent rainy seasons saw a continuation of adverse weather patterns, marked by insufficient rainfall in many regions alongside flooding. 

A birds eye view of the solar panels and the irrigation scheme

Aerial view of the Tauya Irrigation Scheme

Image captured by: Enoch Kavindele Jr/UNDP Zambia

Fast forward to the 2023/2024 rainy season, the situation has escalated and is now affecting over 1 million households. The repercussions have been dire, with approximately 1 million hectares of maize fields damaged out of the 2.2 million hectares that were planted. As a result, an estimated 2.04 million individuals are facing heightened food insecurity.

To address these challenges, the Strengthening Climate Resilience of Agricultural Livelihoods in Agro-Ecological Regions I and II in Zambia (SCRALA) project has implemented a solar-powered drip irrigation scheme in Tauya village. Launched on June 7, 2024, this community irrigation system spanning 12 hectares constructed at a cost of One Hundred Seventy-Nine Thousand United States Dollars (USD$179,000) will benefit over 45 households, of which 25 are female-headed households. 

“What we see today here in Chirundu is very good and must be replicated in many other parts of the country where we have water challenges. Agriculture is the way to go and a key solution to prosperity for Zambia and even for individual farmers who are ready to step in,” said Mr. Reuben Mtolo Phiri- Honourable Minister of Agriculture during the launch and handover ceremony. 

These efforts are expected to yield significant improvements in water accessibility, particularly in regions susceptible to drought, such as Chirundu district. Despite being situated along the banks of the Kafue River, the district faces frequent droughts, exacerbating water scarcity in the agriculture camp, which is further intensified by the lack of motorized pumps for water extraction and ongoing threats from crocodiles.

“This scheme not only promotes access to water for increased agriculture production but also demonstrates the adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices, through harnessing sustainable innovations such as solar energy and drip irrigation for efficient resource utilization that can be scaled up in other drought-affected areas throughout the country. It also demonstrates diversification in agriculture to safeguard the livelihoods and incomes of our communities,” said Mr. James Wakiaga - United Nations Development Programme in Zambia’s Resident Representative during the event.

The project has also provided farmers with over 1,900 banana suckers, planted across 1.5 hectares. The cultivation of these cash crops, alongside maize, holds great promise for boosting both income and food security within the community.

Collaborating closely with the government and partner organizations, the local community is actively driving development initiatives. The banana plants, initially planted in January 2024, have successfully taken root and are expected to be ready for harvest by December 2024.

Rosemary Makwelele, a 60-year-old smallholder farmer and mother of seven, expressed her gratitude: "This scheme will greatly improve our lives because drought has been affecting our crops for a long time, leaving most of us in this cooperative with no source of income. But with this water scheme, farming will greatly improve for both personal farming and as a cooperative especially now that we have so much knowledge on farming, all thanks to the SCRALA project."

To ensure the scheme's sustainability, the project has trained members in managing the irrigation system effectively and seizing market opportunities. Farmers have also received training in cooperative management and financial literacy, promoting sustainable farming practices and fostering economic growth within the community.

Beyond water infrastructure, the project empowers farmers with conservation agriculture knowledge, provides agricultural inputs and technical expertise, offers weather information, alternative livelihoods, financial skills training, and market access. This holistic strategy enhances the livelihoods and overall well-being of farmers.

Given the widespread drought conditions across Zambia, this solar-powered drip irrigation system has the potential to serve as a model for similar projects nationwide, enhancing food security and income generation.

The SCRALA project is jointly funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and implemented by the MoA with technical support from the World Food Programme (WFP), Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA), and the Zambia Meteorological Department (ZMD).