Koga irrigation scheme is one of the few large scale irrigation schemes in Ethiopia. The 7,000 hectares scheme is located in Mecha District, in the West Gojjam zone of Amhara region at about 530 km northwest of Addis Ababa. It serves about 10,000 smallholder households. The scheme has a well organized and coordinated irrigation system with infrastructure that includes a 19.7 km primary canal, 42.3 km secondary canal, 117 km tertiary canal, 783 km quaternary canal and 12 night storage structures for delivering water to each plot of land.
The canals and water storage structures were constructed at a high cost and the efficient use of these facilities requires proper handling to increase their lifespan. In order to stabilize the infrastructure, the Koga irrigation project office introduced Rhodes grass on the edges/borders of the primary, secondary and 80% of the tertiary canals, water storage structures and periphery of the dam.
A green carpet of Rhodes grass can be seen from a distance along the canals and storage structures. The grass contributes to extending the lifespan of these structures by reducing the effects of erosion and siltation. It also reduces the area of wasteland in the scheme.
In addition to stabilizing irrigation canals and night storage structures, farmers from the surrounding area have more awareness about the adaptability, feed value and propagation methods of Rhodes grass. Subsequently, the irrigation scheme is serving as source of Rhodes grass seed for the district and beyond and Rhodes grass planting at the edge of irrigation canals and farmlands is steadily expanding. In addition, Rhodes grass seed producers, collectors and traders are steadily emerging.
The seed yield of Rhodes grass in the scheme ranges from 300 to 500kg/ha. Annually over 20,000 kg of Rhodes seed is supplied to the local market. Farmers sell Rhodes grass seed to local collectors at a cost of ETB 80-100/kg (USD4-5/kg); local collectors sell to traders at a rate of ETB 150-160/kg and local traders sell to users at more than ETB 200/kg. Therefore, ETB 1.6-4 million income is generated annually from Rhodes grass seed production.
The LIVES project supports Rhodes grass producers and seed traders at the Koga irrigation scheme by mentoring and demonstrating propagation methods, production practices, seed harvesting, processing and handling practices. The project has also linked Rhodes grass seed traders with buyers from other parts of the country. In addition, LIVES is introducing and demonstrating the multifaceted benefits of Rhodes grass in irrigation schemes of other project districts and zones.
Written by Yigzaw Dessalegn & Teshome Derso, LIVES Project, Amhara region.