Recently the UNDP ranked Niger as the second least developed country in the world. It suffers from recurring droughts, and rain fed agriculture is always at risk due to low and highly variable precipitation.
The Improved Manual Irrigation Component project was designed to provide low-cost locally manufactured technologies suitable for manual irrigation of gardens less than 0.5 hectare, and to address the major constrains to increased production and improved revenues for market gardeners, in three essential areas; water source development, water lifting and on-farm water distribution. The project has tested 12 water source development technologies, 27 manual water-lifting technologies and 8 water distribution technologies. Then it was to select technologies best adapted to local conditions. Craftsmen were then trained in equipment production and maintenance. The project adapted innovative low-cost technologies for water pumping and well drilling and devoted particular attention to technologies acceptable by women.
As a pilot project the activities were concentrated in four regions in the Republic of Niger with high potential for small-scale irrigation; Tillaberi, Dosso, Maradi and Zinder.
The primary objective of the project was to increase the income of small-scale market gardeners cultivating less than 0.5 hectare, while creating a local capacity for the manufacture of manual irrigation pumps and installation of low-cost tube wells to be sold to small gardeners.
The manufacturing of pumps in local workshops is an important factor in ensuring sustainability. The workshops were trained to manufacture pumps using only local available materials to ensure there is not a dependence on specially imported items.
The most limiting factor to increase production is the time and effort required for lifting water from shallow wells using traditional techniques. The introduction of these simple, low-cost pumps has reduced the time and energy required for irrigation and allowed gardeners to increase their production. The project has therefore, made significant stride in improving the incomes of poor farmers. The average garden size was increased and investment in pumps manufacturing and tube well installation has also increased (in less than 5 years, 14 local manufacturers sold over 1200 pumps and 12 teams of private well drillers installed almost 800 wells).
It is worth mentioning that increasing incomes from irrigated agriculture is reducing the need for villagers to migrate to coastal countries during the dry season in search of work. This factor allows families to be together and reduce a lot of social problems related to such migration.