Water is one of the most essential resource needed for plant growth, plants need water to absorb nutrients from the soil and also as a major ingredient in the production of its food among other uses. It is however essential that water is provided to a plant in the right quantity. Plants such as tomato, pepper and vegetables do well with a high supply of water while other crops such as yam, sweet potato and even sweet melon do not require large amounts of water.
Excess supply of water to plants can damage them, causing roots to rot and restricting oxygen supply from the soil. A low supply of water however, would make the plant wither and die.
For high productivity on farms, it is essential that farmers provide crops with exact amounts of water for proper stability and growth. This however cannot be achieved through an over reliance on rain as major source of water for agriculture. Problems presented by relying on rain for farming in Africa include:
- 1. Reliance on Manual farming system
Through rain-fed farming, farmers leave the development of their crops to the mercy of the weather. Too much rain or too little rain would have a negative effect on farms productivity. Other farm activities such as application of fertilizers, weeding, mulching would have to be done based on rains.
This crude system of farming reduces the control a farmer has over factors of production on his farm, and can lead to low productivity.
- 2. Low yield
By relying on rain-fed system of agriculture, farmers are susceptible to having low yields for any year rains are not as good as expected. Late planting due to late start of rains can give rise to insect infestations on farms, as some pests of plants can be avoided by planting at a particular period of the year. Farming is also restricted to that period of the year when rain falls, meaning farmers are not able to make optimum profits from farm.
- 3. Volatile Profits
With most farmers in Africa venturing into cultivation of crops at the on-set of the planting season, it is only logical that they are bound to harvest at the same time. This leads to a glut in the market, and with poor storage and inadequate processing methods; there is usually a situation of waste of valuable food products.
Market women solely determine the prices of food items in the market, buying produce cheap from farmers and re-selling at almost 5x the price to the detriment of poor farmers. Farmers are also unable to enjoy better profits from off season harvest which is when demands and prices of food are at its highest.
- 4. Difficulty in accessing funds
Due to the problems listed above, most farms in Africa are unable to realize their full potentials. With low income and revenue, farmers are unable to access much needed funds to increase their farms capacity.
A farmer is usually most in need of funds to increase farm size, purchase better seedlings, employ farm labour, purchase mechanized tools, build adequate storage facilities etc. Banks and financial institutions are unwilling to support farming ventures due to its high risk rate, which is even increased when a farmer relies solely on rains for farming.
With Africa’s population set to double by 2050, boosts in irrigation for agriculture would play a huge role in ensuring food security and stabilizing market prices for food.
Farmers would benefit from better profits, year round harvests and increased sources of funding. While consumers would enjoy stabilized prices and increased availability of food.
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