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The Family Drip System: Saviour of sustainable food supply in SADC countries

24 Mar 2015

With a growing global population, the demand for increased food production against declining access to water has become a major concern worldwide.  No more so than in the SADC region where over 70% of the population depend on agriculture for food, income and employment.  Here, much of the food production is in the hands of smallholder farmers rather than large, organised enterprises – and despite many interventions, millions of families across the Southern African Development Community still struggle to survive on subsistence farming.  The challenges they face are manifold:

  • Labour intensive methods
  • Climate variable, limited rainfall
  • Minimal resources
  • Lack of skills training
  • Lack of funds to improve methods
  • Outdated agricultural equipment
  • Limited or inaccessible water supply
  • Inadequate electricity for pump operation
  • Wasted water due to run off and evaporation.

According to the Mike Campbell Foundation, SADC's  key purpose is to build a common future that will ensure economic wellbeing, improvement of living standards and quality of life.  With the above problems in mind, it seems it would be difficult to expect people to succeed at setting up a family vegetable garden to produce their own food sources. But there is a quiet revolution taking place in SADC countries where an innovative irrigation method is allowing the small farmer to thrive not only in drier areas but to put their available water to much greater economical use.    

How does your garden grow?

To survive, people across the vast area of SADC need to become more proficient at growing their own food.  Not only that, but they need to engage in methods that will prove sustainable under their particularly harsh circumstances.  Growing a vegetable garden and sustaining it is not easy under the best of circumstances – but to succeed in the SADC countries, you are going to need knowledge, tenacity, and innovative technology.  Some basic pointers for sustainable vegetable growing include:

  • A balanced pH soil – slightly more acidic for vegetables
  • Planting companion plants such as basil with tomatoes
  • Attracting good bugs that eat aphids with flowers such as Yarrow and Sweet Alyssum planted alongside food plants
  • Compost – easily made from food scraps, leaf clippings, etc
  • Mulch – added as a top covering that protects moisture in the soil, prevents weed growth, protects the root system, adds nutrients to the soil, and slows erosion of top soil – and it’s easily made from bark, grass clippings, shredded leaves, newspaper and manure.

With crucial focus on population health and skills enrichment, SADC currently has a 15-year programme underway, to be implemented in 3 five-year phases with the focus on strengthening research, technology and skills dissemination.  But all this well-intentioned activity would be useless without that most precious of resources – water.  

Enter the Family Drip

All plants need water.  But traditional methods of daily hose watering, sprinkler systems, carrying buckets manually from a distance or diverting streams to the detriment of those further down stream, may be a thing of the past.  Netafim’s revolutionary Family Drip System, specifically designed for small-scale farming, is uniquely suited to plots of land ranging from 250m2 to 1000m2 –  or something as simple as the family vegetable patch.

A gravity-based drip irrigation system, it requires no electricity and works year-round regardless of climate or season.  The farmer still has to develop his expertise but he is able to spend less and grow more with this ingenious method which includes the following beneficial features:

  • Easy and inexpensive to install, operate and maintain
  • Minimal or no infrastructure investment
  • Designed for all types of crops, open field crops and small greenhouses
  • Attaches easily to any water tank
  • Can be used with a wide variety of water sources
  • Prevents run off and maximizes water efficiency
  • Requires no special skills or previous experience.

SADC’s mission to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient production systems, has received an enormous boost through the application of the Netafim Family Drip System.  It’s a technique that uses scarce water resources with utmost economy and at the same time maximises crop output.  It uses less but grows more – thus saving water and providing produce for a greater number of people.

This exceptional win-win irrigation system is possibly the single most important technological advance in agriculture that is slowly changing the future of the Southern African Development Community, creating extraordinary opportunities to grow food in a sustainable way in areas and circumstances where this was previously believed impossible. 

Find out more about the Netafim Family Drip System at: www.netafim.co.za


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