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Drip Irrigation

Page history last edited by editor 8 years, 7 months ago



Drip irrigation is a method of watering plants that saves water and fertilizer by channeling water directly to the roots of plants. The water is channeled through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters to the base of the plant.4 Drip irrigation systems comes in different types, sizes and cost. For developing world, lower costing systems are available that replace expensive parts with less technologically sophisticated parts (such as replacing emitters with simple hole punches in tubes).5




Issue Category:

Water resources

Food Security and livelihoods


Drip irrigation system is an effective way to increase agricultural productivity in scarce water resources setting 

SWOT Analysis

  • Can be used in difficult terrains (hilly, low rainfall)1,5
  • Variety of crops can be irrigated (vegetables, fruits, commercial cash crops, flowers)1
  • Difficult to use for cereal crops such as rice, wheat etc that require large quantity of water2
  • Ongoing research is showing promising results in rice cultivation using drip irrigation3
  • Lack of access to inputs, resources, incentives, markets, institutional support and outreach5
Fixed Cost
  • High, but lower than other irrigation systems1
  • Can recover investment costs after one crop season5 
  • Investment costs are high in the beginning (although relative cost-efficiency is better overall)
  • Less costly systems are being introduced by organizations such as IDE to meet the budget constraints of poor households.
  • Lack of access to credit5
  • Slopping land may have to be leveled which may require additional investments
Operational Cost
  • Reduced cultivation cost1,5
  • Drip tape can increase clean-up costs after harvest
  • Pipes can dry up or become damaged which can increase maintenance costs3
  • Drip kit and its spare parts may not be available in local markets5
  • Can double or triple1
  • Water savings of >50%1,5
  • Saves energy if gravity operated (IDE systems) or low horsepower pumps1,5
Labor requirements
  • Lower - for irrigation, weeding and fertilizer application
  • Concentration of salts in roots is reduced due to slow application
  • Clogging occurs if water is not properly filtered or equipment is not well-maintained
  • Waste of water if not installed properly
  • Germination problems may arise in lighter soils if drip system cannot sufficiently wet the soil surface
  • Better trainings or resources must be available for troubleshooting and maintenance3 
Lessons Learned
  • Water harvesting methods are important when there is unreliable water supply for irrigation systems6
  • Regular contact between the farmers and government extension services is also important6
  • It is important to develop and strengthen local community organizations and networks for sharing lessons, promising practices and innovations6
  • There is need to strengthen the production-market chain linkages i.e. input/seed suppliers, suppliers of technology and market outlets6
  • Size of the drip kit must be considered because if kits are too small, then they may not have much impact on poverty alleviation6
  • Micro credit facilities should integrated with the drip irrigation project so that beneficiaries have access to loans to expand their activities. Another option is to establish/facilitate the setting up of a revolving fund for the beneficiaries so that they work as groups to expand their activities6
  • Further training is required for the beneficiaries so that they do not grow the same crops that can cause a glut resulting in depressed prices. This should be done within the overall market development strategy of the project, linking communities with markets6
  • Water conveyance systems that will make it easy for beneficiaries to fill the water storage tanks instead of filling them using buckets should be identified to further ease the burden on women, children and the elderly. The introduction of the elephant pump, with an extension connection to the water storage tanks so that water is pumped directly into the tanks should be scaled up.6

Case Studies


  •  Low Cost Drip Irrigation, Jhikhu Khola watershed, Nepal | FAO, ICIMOD 

The report presents a case study of a drip irrigation project in rural Nepal. It provides in detail information about the design of the program and the lessons learned from implementation and results.




  • Gardening with Low-Cost Drip Irrigation in Kenya: For Health and Profit | Jack Keller, IDE

The purpose of the Study was to evaluate the potential and technical aspects of improving irrigation performance and
reducing poverty simultaneously through applying a market creation approach to development. The core of this market creation approach is to promote the sale of low-cost micro-irrigation to poor farmers tending small plots. The Study was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
under a program championed by Dr. Urs Heierli.



  • The Case Study of Drip Kit Micro-irrigation in Zimbabwe | Plan International Zimbabwe 

The case study deals with one of Plan’s programmes where the provision of drip irrigation kits was part of a rural water supply programme. This allowed farmers to also use water for gardening activities. The drip kits reduce water losses and enable better use of limited water supplies. One of his key findings is to link such programmes with production-market chain linkages i.e. input/seed suppliers, suppliers of technology and market outlets, so as to optimize the benefits of the programme. As part of Plan’s poverty alleviation program, the drip micro irrigation project was implemented starting in 2003. The aim of the project was to create opportunities for household economy security through sustainable production of vegetables to improve nutrition and also to enhance household income earning capacity through the sale of surplus vegetables. One thousand five hundred drip kits supported with various types of vegetable seed were distributed to vulnerable households, schools and some demonstration sites in Kwekwe, Mutasa, Mutare and Mutoko districts. Plan partnered with IDE, Linkages for Economic Advancement for the Disadvantaged (LEAD) and ECI-Africa. In 2005 the project was scaled up to cover the other three districts where Plan is operating.


Additional Resources


Manuals and guides

  • Technical Manual for IDEal Micro Irrigation Systems (IMS) <IDE> features comprehensive parts lists and instructions for assembling low-cost drip irrigation systems.
  • Simple Drip Irrigation - Nepal <IDE presentation> features photos of drip system components and installations in Nepal.
  • Drip Irrigation Systems - Jain Irrigation Systems <website> describes different types of systems available through Jain



  • International Development Enterprises (IDE) <website>
  • Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd. <website>


Further reading (from Wikipedia4): 

  • Irrigation, 5th Edition, Muhammad Irfan Khan Yousafzai, Claude H. Pair, editor, published by the Irrigation Association, 1983
  • Trickle Irrigation for Crop Production, F. S. Nakayama and D. A. Bucks, editors, published by Elsevier, 1986, ISBN 0-444-42615-9
  • S. Blass, Water in Strife and Action (Hebrew), published by Massada limited, Israel, 1973
  • Maintenance Manual, published by Jain Irrigation Systems, 1989
  • Drip and Micro Irrigation Design and Management for Trees, Vines, and Field Crops, 3rd Edition, by Charles M. Burt and Stuart W. Styles, published by the Irrigation Training and Research Center, 2007





(1) IDE. Technical Manual for IDEal Micro Irrigation Systems (IMS) http://www.ideorg.org/OurTechnologies/IDEal_Drip_Technical_Manual.pdf

(2) S. Postel. "Drip Irrigation Expanding Worldwide" National Geographic News Watch. June 25, 2012 http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/06/25/drip-irrigation-expanding-worldwide/

(3) N Madhavan "Field of Dreams" Business Today. Aug 8 2010. <http://businesstoday.intoday.in/story/fields-of-dreams/1/5852.html>

(4) "Drip Irrigation" Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drip_irrigation>

(5) "Low Cost Drip Irrigation, Jhikhu Khola watershed, Nepal." FAO. <ftp://ftp.fao.org/sd/sda/SDAR/sard/English%20GP/EN%20GP%20Asia/Drip_Irrigation_Nepal.pdf>

(6) N.T. Murimiradzomba. "Case Study on Multiple Use of Water in Zimbabwe. Household Economic Security: The Case of Drip Kit Micro Irrigation Project." PLAN Zimbabwe. 2006. <http://www.musgroup.net/content/download/655/6307/file/zimbabwe.pdf>



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