Drainage and Irrigation
Irrigation has so far not been very important in the development of agriculture in Ethiopia. Unfortunately,the country suffers from severe food shortage due to chronic droughts when there is a potential to develop over three million hectares by irrigation. Land under irrigation accounts for only 5% of the potential and nearly half of this is under traditional irrigation scattered all over the country. Most of the modern commercially managed agriculture is found in the Awash Valley and mainly produces cotton, sugarcane and horticultural crops. The major outputs of research in irrigation and drainage management at Where have been the determination of water requirement, frequency and depth of application for cotton, wheat, maize and horticultural crops. Significant investigation has also been done on drainage and fertilizer management under irrigation in the region.
Presently, irrigated area in the country accounts only for 5% of the total land suitable for irrigation and about one-third of this is located in the Awash basin. But the improperly planned irrigation projects not supported by improved irrigation and drainage management technologies, had invited further degradation causing salinity, sodicity and and siltation problems. In Ethiopia, most of the research activities have been mainly concentrated on agronomic components giving less attention to the engineering aspects. It is also observed that the research has focused on plot-based studies than looking into integrated water management for agriculture.
Research on irrigation has been going on at Werer Agricultural Research Center, for more than 30 years. It has served the interests of the large commercial plantations of cotton and horticultural crops in the valley. It will continue serving the purpose of these large-scale commercial farms as many more are expected to come into existence in the next few years. However, from now on, irrigation development is not only focusing on the production of industrial crops but also food crops and high value cash crops in the highlands where most of the population live. The Ministry of Water Resources has nearly completed comprehensive master plan studies of the major river basins and is embarking on the implementation phase. The master plan studies not only focus on the potential lowland irrigation but also on the development of potential areas in the highlands with emphasis on food crop production.