This paper surveys the technological development of drip irrigation amongst traditional farmers in developing countries.
Four decades have passed since the introduction of drip irrigation technologies. During the first decade, drip irrigation was viewed as a method for conserving water. Over the second, it was found to increase yield quantities and quality with efficient irrigation, but was used mainly for intensive crops, such as flowers, vegetables and orchards and was considered suitable only for advanced farmers. During the third decade, this technology started to find its way into field crops and all types of fruit orchards. During this decade, this system started penetrating developing countries, mainly India and Israel. During the fourth decade (the 90s), drip irrigation began penetrating countries with rainy climates, as supplementary irrigation, as well as being introduced for use for small traditional farm-holders, as an efficient and easy-to-operate method.
The initial step for introducing drip irrigation was taken in the early 70s in Israel in the Jordan Rift Valley amongst traditional farmers. Following this success, which resulted in a ten-fold increase in yields and the farmersí incomes, a model was developed for introducing this technology to developing countries. Several years after this, an Indian company adopted this model, and with the assistance of the Indian government, which decided to subsidize drip systems, it began, together with other Indian companies to produce, import and lay out drip irrigation systems throughout India. A few years later, fearing a water and food shortage, the Chinese government declared drip irrigation technology, which saves water and improves yields, to be amongst the top 10 priorities for development in the last decade.
The process of acknowledging drip irrigation technology as a legitimate irrigation method also suitable for developing countries evolved mainly over the past decade through the F.A.O. and the World Bank. In various places around the globe, irrigation companies started to develop drip irrigation systems for developing countries. This paper describes the advantages and disadvantages of these systems, mentioning points that need to be taken into consideration in the development of drip irrigation systems for these countries, including examples and data from additional developing countries that have begun introducing drip irrigation techniques to traditional farmers.