By Birhanu Biazin, Amare Haileslassie,Yoseph Mekasha, Tesfaye Dubale and Tesfaye Shewage
Interventions by the Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) Project are now enabling Ethiopian farmers better maintain their irrigation water pumps to improve their food production and food security.
Many smallholder farmers in the country rely on water pumps to irrigate their farms to grow food crops. But many of the pumps, which are supplied by the government, non-governmental organizations and private companies, are poorly maintained and break down often.
Lack of appropriate and accessible repair and maintenance services for farmers is a serious problem in many parts of rural Ethiopia.
In some areas, such as in Mirab Abaya District of Gamo Gofa zone, farmers travel up to 80km to find pump repair services, often at private garages. The process is expensive and service is often delayed especially during critical irrigation seasons. In Bensa District in Sidama zone, lack of access to proper repair services has altogether discouraged farmers from acquiring pumps.
But new motor pumps repair and maintenance service providers, supported by LIVES and IWMI, are helping to tackle the problem.
The initiative has trained and coached groups of smallholder farmers and assisted them to establish motor pump repair shops at peasant association (PA) and village levels. It is also working with commercial service providers such as garages.
In the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNP’s) Regional Bureau of Agriculture, LIVES and IMWI offered skill-based training for private garages owners and smallholder farmers from district capitals and villages, respectively. The training was designed to enable trainees to ascertain major causes of damages of motor water pumps and basic maintenance tools were provided to trainees. LIVES is coaching and mentoring the newly trained service providers to expand their businesses by strengthening linkages, developing new business skills and promoting their businesses in various ways such as putting up signposts.
Asrat Tessema, a farmer engaged in irrigated vegetable farming at Huro Tibiro PA in Bensa District is one of the beneficiaries. He used to travel to Bensa to repair his water pump which was expensive and took up to two weeks and affected his ability to irrigate his farm. After training and coaching by LIVES, he can now carry out basic repair of his and other farmers’ pumps. He has already repaired more than 32 motor pumps for farmers in Bensa and Aroresa districts in three months referring just three pumps to Bensa town for replacement of major parts.
In the Yayke PA of Mirab Abaya District in Gamo Gofa, Yasin Seid, another smallholder vegetable farmer, has also managed to maintain more than 16 motor water pumps from his PA in two months. He has also expanded his business, and supplies fuel and oil at his repair shop.
Both Asrat and Yasin say most motor water pumps damage results from improper operations, use of adulterated fuel and oil, and lack of timely service such as changing oil and filters. They say farmers prefer to have their pumps repaired by service providers at the village level because they trust them more and because the providers share maintenance information with them. The services are also easily accessible and repairs take a shorter time.Moreover, the village level service providers request a relatively lower maintenance cost as compare to the garages for their labour.
Initiating and strengthening village level service providers has improved local knowledge of water pump management and maintenance. But private service providers are still important. LIVES is reaching out to garage owners like Ermias Alemayehu in Mirab Abaya who was trained and coached by the project team to intensify his motor pump repair and maintenance services and to train farmers through the Office of Agriculture. Ermias now plans to expand his business and supply spare parts and different types of motor pumps at the district level.
LIVES and partners are working to scale up the initiative to avail motor pumps repair services at village and district levels which is critical for small-scale irrigation of smallholder farms.