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irrigation and introducing new crops
Nassor, left, from Pemba Foundation and Bakar, center, visiting Ali's farm to design his new irrigation system. Bakar received his system in 2014 and now advises other farmers for the Foundation.

Pemba has good farmland, but yields are severely limited by the 6-month dry season.  With abundant groundwater, recharged during the rains, Pemba is an ideal place for irrigated agriculture.  But as domestic water networks develop, groundwater demand is growing fast, so it's essential to use water-efficient drip methods for irrigation.  Most farmers cannot afford to invest in irrigation, however, and we receive many requests from all over the island for help. 


A Pemba Foundation program helps farmers install drip irrigation: we provide the materials and advice, the farmers contribute the labour for well-digging, land clearing and equipment installation.  So far we have designed and installed systems on ten farms.  Most systems use a conventional petrol-powered or electric water pump, but one has an innovative low-tech wind pump designed by EMAS, a Bolivian rural-technology organisation, which we arranged to fabricate locally.  It's good for pumping deep boreholes in remote locations, with no electricity.  All our systems use our own design of drip emitters: they're effective, easy to clean and cost much less than commercially available designs.  At our suggestion, in addition to subsistence crops many farms are growing passion fruit for cash.  It's a non-traditional crop, and brings good prices in local markets.


The potential of irrigated agriculture in Pemba is demonstrated by the success of Bakar Hamad Said, one of the first farmers for whom we built a drip irrigation system in 2014.  His passion fruit vines are now fully established and yielding well.  From a very low base before, Bakar now harvests 40 kg of fruit every 2 days.  Wholesalers come to him to buy at $1/kg, and because his plants are protected from the dry season it's an income he gets year round.  He's added a watermelon field to take advantage of spare pump capacity, and is building a house on his farm for a worker and family.  Bakar's 3-acre farm before irrigation made about $3/day, which had to support a family of 7 plus 2 direct dependents, and also help to support various extended family members. That income is considerably below the usual poverty line of $1-2/day.  With irrigation, the farm yields $12/day, which lifts Bakar and his family out of poverty. 


Bakar has become a skillful and successful farmer and businessman.  He taught himself how to get the best out of irrigation, and how to market his produce.  Now he's an agricultural adviser in the Pemba Foundation's small business loan program.

Other farmers have seen Bakar's fruit in the market, they ask him how he does it, and then they come to us to ask for a drip system. In 2016 we completed three systems, all for small agricultural co-ops, generously funded by the Ambassador's Community Grants Program of the US embassy, Dar es Salaam. Also in 2016, we started a partnership with a UK charity, WaterFall, which specializes in water resource development in India and Africa, and have built systems with their generous support.

We'll continue to install as many drip systems as funding allows -- Pemba could use literally hundreds of small systems like these.

The passion fruit project is the brainchild of a Pemba Foundation volunteer, Jeroen de Boorder, profiled below.


Profile: irrigation and new crops project manager Jeroen de Boorder

Jeroen de Boorder, shown here in the passion fruit grove he started on the Tanzania mainland, is our manager for the irrigation project. Jeroen is a veterinarian who spent eight years living on Pemba, where he worked on a number of successful agricultural development projects including livestock, beekeeping, and fruit and vegetable farming. Jeroen's wife, Saada, is Pemban and the family, now living in the Netherlands, visits the island frequently. Jeroen shares the Pemba Foundation's view that irrigation is one of the most promising ways for Pemba's small-scale farmers to increase yields and incomes. He has a special interest in adapting low-cost, sustainable water-pumping methods to Pemban conditions, hence the EMAS wind pump we've installed on Ibrahim's farm. Jeroen's also thinking about animal-powered pumps, solar-electric, and the brand new concept of solar-steam. 

Jeroen is a volunteer who donates his time to the Pemba Foundation. He is an agricultural adviser for the Foundation's small business loan program.

Jeroen speaks Dutch, English, French and Swahili. Reach him at