Review of status and potential of spate irrigation in Ethiopia
Keywords:Spate, Irriagtion, Water resource, crop
This article discusses spate irrigation in Ethiopia and aims to take stock of the current status of spate irrigation development. It summarizes experiences so far and formulates a number of recommendations on the development of this upcoming resource management system. It argues that raised weirs are useful mainly in areas where a large head for spate flow diversion is required, but that traditional earthen structures with conical stone/gabion reinforcements are cost-effective and technically adequate for floodwater distribution and management. It contends that the practical successes of sediment settling ponds (gravel traps) are at best mixed. The article further explains that water rights in spate are different from the sharing and allocation of perennial flows they are dynamic and respond to a situation that differs from year to year as well as within a year and that a certain degree of inequity among users is inevitable. Keeping the command area compact can ensure two or more irrigation turns and this can highly increase productivity as crops are no longer in the ‘stress zone’. To transform spate irrigation in Ethiopia from subsistence to a business-oriented production system, the article proposes the promotion of cash crops including pulses and oil seeds as well as encouraging investors to go for bio-fuel development and agro-forestry in the lowland areas where huge potential exist.
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