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Research is Indispensable for
of paramount importance to increase agricultural production. However, irrigated
farming constitutes only about 15 percent of the world's total cropland, and
three-quarters of such land is in the Third world.
engineers are embarking on a poignant reappraisal of the way they have spent
billions of dollars in aid on irrigation schemes in the Third world over the
past few decades. They are realizing now that most trenchant criticisms
regarding such schemes are true.
such schemes have turned into economic, environmental and social disasters.
Many hillsides are eroded, reservoirs are filling with sediments, canals are
full of clogging weeds and farmers can not or will not use the water so
expensively provided for them.
failed to find ways to check the spread canals of water-borne diseases, such as
malaria. Neither have they been able to stop weeds clogging canals nor to halt
the building up of salts in soils and waterways.
A recent study shows that much irrigated land is being
brought into production by new immigration production by new immigration
schemes. Also, salinity is damaging agricultural productions as much as half of
all cropland round the world.
The engineering failures of irrigation
schemes are leading farmers to distrust the reliability of the water on offer.
In a study in India, farmers using water from wells, which they can control,
were producing agricultural products twice those of their neighbors who relied
on irrigation schemes, which are not under their control.
the Asian Development Bank, one of the biggest spenders on irrigation research
is necessary in Third world irrigation. The bank looked at the fate of many of
its largest schemes to bring water to farms. However, it concluded that the
financial returns so far were between 15 and 30 percent of those predicted.
Of course, some are not the engineers' faults because they do
not set the laws that keep food prices low but make it unprofitable for farmers
to grow. Actually, in the great race to keep food production a head of
population growth, research into how to build and run irrigation schemes is