The small-scale farmers of the Mbeya Region have asked the government to include small irrigation machines in the input subsidy scheme so that the equipment can enable them to engage in irrigation farming, which will increase food security in households throughout the year.

The request was made by the farmers who participated in the irrigation stakeholder conference held in the city of Morogoro in coordination with the KickStart Foundation for the distribution of MoneyMaker irrigation pumps.

Chairman of the Central Cooperative Party in the Zanzibar Region, Paul Mw Rise said; "There is a need for the pumps to be included in the input subsidy scheme as they can be a saviour for smallholder farmers in terms of their quality and the relief of their costs.'

He said irrigation pumps reduce water loss, hand or rain-dependent irrigation, cost of production and increase productivity and allow farmers to concentrate on other agricultural activities and thus increase their income.

"As the government succeeds in increasing agricultural productivity by subsidizing fertilizer to farmers, doing so by providing them with small irrigation machines, productivity especially during the dry season will increase," Mw Rise said.

Kick Start East Africa Regional Manager Pascal Maitha said their institute had conducted research and came up with the technology for the simple pumps, targeting smallholder farmers whose contribution to the production of various agricultural crops in the country is needed on a large scale.

Maitha said their pedal-operated pumps are capable of supplying water to the plains and mountain ranges between 150 and 200 meters.

"Even for farmers with small farms outside their homes they can use these pumps to produce a variety of different crops including vegetables throughout the year," he said.

He said irrigation in Tanzania and in the Sahara is important because many of its areas are arid because they do not receive enough rain.

Commenting on how irrigation can also help tackle climate change, Maitha said while statistics show Tanzania has more than Sh29 million hectares of irrigation used it is less than 4%.

"Although Tanzania has a large area suitable for irrigation, the opportunity to increase production by more than 50% is not well used and instead a large portion of farmers, especially small-scale farmers, have continued to rely on unpredictable rainfall," he said.

Opening the conference, the Assistant Secretary of the Tanzania Region Elias Luvanda commended the institute for coming up with the technology, saying farmers can use it to control water loss and ensure plants have enough water.

He said because water is a rare resource, especially in arid areas, it is important to use rainwater storage systems or use water reservoirs to store water for irrigation purposes.

"In order for this water storage to be successful, it is important that various stakeholders continue to work with the government to educate farmers on the best irrigation practices," he said.