In Sierra Leone, the mean annual rainfall is around 2500mm but its distribution is not uniform, resulting in water surplus during the rainy season (i.e. May-October) and water deficit during the dry season (i.e. November –April).
Some 20 –50 percent of the total annual rainfall is “lost” to runoff resulting in water deficits as much as 500mm per annum in some agro climatic regions in the country. The persistence of such deficits in some areas limits crop and animal produc-tion activities during the period.
At present, ample water resources exist, amounting to about 160 km3 per annum; most of this is accounted for by surface water. However, current utilization is less than 5 percent per annum. A priority need for the smallholders is an irrigation system for perennial Inland Valley Swamp (IVS) rehabilitation and development to manage surface water through drainage and irrigation structures in all the thirteen (13) agricultural districts.
This would expand high quality low land for cultivation. An inventory is being taken of all perennial IVS to consider appropriate usage. Before the commencement of the Smallholder Commercialization Programme feasibility studies were been carried out for Gbondapi, Torma Bum and Komrabai Mamayla IVS play a major role in the restoration and increase of agricultural production through their potential for cropping intensification and diversification (rice and vegetables). IVS exist through out the 11 district in all the main drainage lines. It is estimated that 65 000 ha out of a total of 300 000 ha of IVS are used for rice production.
The cultivation of most swamps was abandoned during the civil war, including swamps that were traditionally cultivated or swamps that were previously developed by irrigation. Weeds and bushes have been growing for several years and are difficult to wipe out with traditional tools.
Dikes, canals, drains and weirs in previously developed swamps have not been maintained for years. In spite of the high potential for permanent cropping, crop production in the IVS is negatively affected by: (a) inadequate drainage and flash flooding; (b) irregular flooding due to lack of water management; (c) low fertility levels and iron and aluminium toxicity; and (d) inadequate residual moisture and water supply during the dry season.
Irrigation schemes for smallholder production in IVS exist but only at minimal levels. There is high potential to maximize production in irrigated zones, up to double the current yield which is about 1.8 t/ha of paddy.
MAFFS has identified some 241,600 hectares of potential development of irrigable land area using surface or underground water management techniques and 28,000 hectares using perennial swamp surface water management techniques.
The subsector faces many challenges. First, there is a lack of appropriate land use planning caused by poor technology and training, as well as general awareness of its importance. Second, land tenure issues are problematic.
There is a review of land tenure regulations and laws currently ongoing being les the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and Environment with support from UNDP and FAO, aiming to revise these laws and adjust customary practices to facilitate easier access to land titling and leasing with long term security of holdings. A
t present, leaseholds are accessible to smallholders, including groups, but security of these agreements may be uncertain. Third, regulatory instruments to facilitate better land and water use need to be better focused.
There are two large agricultural projects currently undertaking extensive rehabilitation of perennial IVS. ASREP is rehabilitating 15,000 hectares of perennial IVS over 5 years in Kambia, Port Loko, Moyamba, Pujehun and Kenema Districts. RCPRP is also rehabilitating 1,950 ha hectares over 5 years in the districts of Kailuhan and Kono