Ubumbo's Irrigation Upgrade Brings All-Round Benefits
"Ubumbo Sugar has successfully completed a phased irrigation upgrade project..."
UBOMBO SUGAR has successfully completed a phased irrigation upgrade project which was undertaken to improve financial and economic viability while utilising land, water and energy on a sustainable basis.
As part of the project, which was implemented over a 4–year period, a total of R84 million was invested to upgrade irrigation systems on 3,612ha previously irrigated with a dragline sprinkler system which had a high energy requirement. Of the total area converted, 2,482ha was converted to centre pivot irrigation which is more water efficient and uses less energy to operate. The remaining 1,130ha was converted to a semi-solid set sprinkler system.
The project was in response to increasing water scarcity in Swaziland and the need to use water efficiently and sustainably in the production of sugarcane. With the enactment of a new Water Act in 2003, Ubombo needed to invest in efficient irrigation systems in order to comply with the volumetric allocation of 13,600m3/ha. Since the completion of the project, water use per season has reduced by about 23% from 17,000m3/ha to 13,200m3/ha as shown in the graph.
YIELD increase of approximately 14 tons cane per hectare in the converted area resulted in sugarcane production increasing by 72,000 tons through higher yields on the same amount of land under cane. In addition, the saved water was used to develop an additional 700ha which will produce about 70,000 tons of cane, also using centre pivot irrigation.
Improving energy efficiency in irrigation was a key factor in selecting centre pivot irrigation which uses approximately 20% less power than conventional sprinkler systems, depending on topography and layout of the land. The project has reduced energy use by about 20% and further reductions are expected as more of the existing pumps are replaced with more efficient units.
As a result of the successful completion of the centre pivot conversion project, Ubombo Sugar is well positioned to continue to produce sugarcane in Swaziland on a sustainable basis through efficient use of water and energy, lower operating costs and high productivity per unit of land.