Compared to the rest of the country, southern Madagascar experiences cyclical droughts that threaten the population’s food security. In general, the country’s agricultural performance has remained weak, mainly due to low yields, poor basic infrastructure and lack of rural credit. To overcome these constraints, the government has developed sector policies and strategies that notably provide for the rehabilitation of irrigation areas such as the Lower Mangoky Scheme.
The Lower Mangoky Irrigation Area is located in the Morombe District in Madagascar’s Southwest Region, about 220 kilometres north of Tulear town. The irrigation area is supplied with water from the River Mangoky, which is the largest river in Madagascar, through an intake located 20 km in the river’s upstream. The development of the irrigation area began in the sixties. Before rehabilitation, the Lower Mangoky Irrigation Area was managed by Samangoky, a state-owned company. The Lower Mangoky Irrigation Area is currently the only one in Madagascar equipped with concrete and self-support irrigation canals right up to the plots.
The project is financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB), through initial ADF and OPEC loans of UA 10 million and USD 8.8 million, respectively, finalized in December 2008, and a supplementary ADF loan of UA 15 million, which will be finalized end December 2015. The supplementary loan will finance the construction of a new water intake, replacing the existing outlet on the verge of breaking. This reconstruction will provide the opportunity to secure rice production and achieve further significant extension of the Lower Mangoky Irrigation Area estimated at 15,000 ha. The Bank has granted an advance of UA 500,000 in 2012 for the extension study. In addition, following damage caused by Cyclone Fanele, the Bank provided an emergency grant of USD 1 million in 2009 to repair the scheme’s protection dyke.
The initial objective of the project was to increase rice production through intensive development and annual double cropping of 5,850 ha. The project’s technical activities are grouped into four components, namely: Component A, "Irrigation Area Rehabilitation"; Component B, "Irrigation Area Development Support"; Component C, “Improved Access to Infrastructure"; and Component D, "Project Management Support."
Major rehabilitation works undertaken within the framework of the project include:
- an intake sized for 14 m3/s, a pre-channel of 4.1 km equipped with a sand trap and sand clearing equipment, and a supply channel of 14.5 km with a capacity of 10 m3/s;
- an irrigation system comprising 30 km of main canal, 74.5 km of secondary canals and 59 km and 459 km of tertiary and quaternary canals, respectively;
- 479 hydro-mechanical flow control equipment, automatically or manually operated;
- a 727 km drainage network; and
- 39 km of the irrigation area protection dyke.
To ensure the area’s water management and equipment maintenance at the various sectors, the 6,500 Lower Mangoky rice farmers are organized into 22 Water Users Associations (WUAs). The federation of WUAs is responsible for water management and maintenance of large shared structures. As part of support provided by the project, 800 WUA officials and their federations have benefited from technical and organizational capacity building.
Through non-formal contact groups set up at the village level, the project has used demonstration plots to disseminate new farming methods based on crop varieties and soil fertility. The creation of a rural financing agency in the irrigation area has helped to facilitate the acquisition of agricultural equipment by farmers through loans (mini-tractors, ploughs and hoes), inputs (certified seeds and fertilizers) as well as pesticides. More than 64 cooperatives grouped into five unions and a federation have been established in various domains (quality seed production, use of village community granaries, Lima bean production, etc.).
Before rehabilitation, the acreage per season was about 1,200 ha per year. After rehabilitation, it is possible to obtain the required flow rate of 10 m3 / s at the top of the irrigation area when the channels are de-silted. The total surface obtained after the rehabilitation is 5,000 ha.
The irrigation area’s average rice yield increased from 2.5 t/ha to 6 t/ha on project completion. For many years running, farmers in the Lower Mangoky were awarded prizes during a competition organized by the Presidency of the Republic and the Ministry of Agriculture for averaging an output per plot of 12.5 t/ha. More than 245 farmers have become small rural entrepreneurs specializing in rice production with the achievement of a minimum yield of 8 t/ha. Additional production achieved at the end of the initial project is 38,000 tons, which exceeds initial estimates which were 35,580 tons.
During the initial project, land ownership was secured through the demarcation of 5,700 ha of land and the issuance of more than 5,000 individual land titles to farmers who develop the land. This motivates the new landowners to preserve the land acquired and to develop it more efficiently.
To ensure the project’s sustainability, an umbrella organization comprising WUAs and their federations, cooperatives and their unions and federations, economic operators, development agencies and NGOs operating within the irrigation area known as the Lower Mangoky Irrigation Area Association (APBM) was established. Its mission is to coordinate and lead Lower Mangoky Irrigation Area development activities and its general enhancement.
With the construction of the new water intake, the irrigation area which records very satisfactory results with average yields of about 6 t/ha will be consolidated as a major rice production centre and will play an increasingly important role in the country's food security.