Problems Plague Ambitious Irrigation Plan in Africa

Tanzanian rice farmer Zwena Mvena, 20 i i

hide captionTanzanian rice farmer Zwena Mvena, 20, says a new irrigation scheme has helped very little.

Jason Beaubien, NPR
Tanzanian rice farmer Zwena Mvena, 20

Tanzanian rice farmer Zwena Mvena, 20, says a new irrigation scheme has helped very little.

Jason Beaubien, NPR

Tanzania hopes to jump-start its agricultural production by dramatically increasing the use of irrigation. The government of the East African nation plans to quadruple the amount of irrigated land to almost 2.5 million acres over the next four years.

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Existing irrigation schemes have had significant, but unintended, consequences. Tanzania has suffered crippling electricity blackouts for months, as water once used to power hydroelectric plants is diverted to grow rice.

Meanwhile, rivers that formerly filled their banks year-round have begun to dry up. Worse yet, rice yields are up only slightly, if at all.

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