Irrigation made easy



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Content: Farmers in Sokoto State, Nigeria save labour, time, and energy when irrigating their farm and garden plots. They draw water from the well in a large 30 litre (6 1/2 gallon) bucket, using a simple homemade crane. The boom of the crane has a counterweight that easily lifts each bucketful of water out of the well. It is then emptied into a main irrigation ditch connected to a network that distributes the water to their plots.

For many of our farmers in Nigeria, as in other countries of the world, a well is the main source of water. In our villages, we need water for drinking, for cooking and washing, for our livestock, and for irrigating our farm and garden plots. The traditional method of drawing water from the well has always been to use a bucket on the end of a long rope. After pulling up a full bucket with the rope, the water is poured into another container and carried to the place where it is to be used.

Doing this to irrigate our farm and garden crops takes a lot of labour, time, and energy, and only a small portion of our crops can be watered in a day. Because of this, farmers in my area have devised an easier way to get water from their wells. They do it with a crane close to the well.

There are two parts to the crane. The first is a pole stuck vertically in the ground with a fork or crotch at the top of the pole. The other part is a much longer pole. It forms the boom of the crane, as the mid-point of this pole is placed in the fork at the top of the vertical pole. The fork then becomes a pivot for this longer pole. With a rope tied to the light end of the long pole and a large bucket tied to the free end of the rope, you can see how the crane can be used to lift a heavy bucketful of water up out of the well.

Here are more details about the crane. As, I said, the forked pole is set vertically in the ground. It should be a short distance, perhaps 1 1/2 metres (5 feet) from the well. When erecting this pole, it is placed so that one side of the fork faces the well. The other pole is nearly twice as long. At the light end of it, one end of a strong rope is securely fastened. The rope is long enough to reach to the bottom of the well. The free end of the rope is then tied to the handle of a good-sized (30 litre [6 1/2 gallon]) bucket.

Extra weight is added to the heavy end of the long pole. Stones or cement can be used, but they must be firmly attached to it. Altogether. that end of the pole must weigh about the same as a full bucket of water. To put the parts together ready for lifting water out of the well, the middle of the long pole is placed in the fork of the vertical pole. This way, the bucket will hang directly over the well.

When our farmers draw water for irrigating their crops, they pull down on the rope, letting the bucket down into the well. As they do this, the long pole pivots in the fork of the vertical pole so the heavy end goes up in the air. The bucket, down in the well, fills with water. Then the heavy end of the pole with the weight goes back down, and the light end goes up. The weight is heavy enough to lift the full bucket up to the top of the well with no effort at all by the farmer. For a person who has to draw a lot of water in a day for watering the crops, this is a wonderful help. It is easy, much less strenuous, and a lot more water can be handled in a day than by just using a small bucket and a rope.

The soil in the area where this system is used is heavy clay and because of this, when water is poured into a ditch, it will flow in the ditch and not soak into the soil around the ditch. So the farmers dig a main ditch leading from the well, over to their field and garden plots. As they pour each big bucketful of water into this main ditch, the water flows from the main ditch into a network of smaller ditches in the field. Then it is absorbed into each of the beds or ridges where the crops are growing.

With this method of irrigation, the farmers’ labour, time, and energy involved in carrying buckets of water from one place to another can be put to more productive use. The crane is cheap and easy to operate by any farmer in a rural area and even in the city.

Serving Agriculture, the Basic Industry, I am Uzoma Nwaogwugwu.


Other DCFRN items about irrigation are:

Subsurface Irrigation for Your Garden – Package 6, Item 7

Irrigation: When to Do It – Package 7, Item 1/C

Information sources

Uzoma Nwaogwugwu, Development Worker, Lagos, Nigeria