Upgrades to Ibri falaj offer new lease of life to farmers

BY Alzahra Sunaidi –

Summer months used to be a dreaded season for many farmers in Ibri in the past. From June to September every year, the water level drops resulting in many of the farm plants dying and even the dates suffer the same fate.
With the heat that can rise up to 45 degrees Celsius, farmers view the summer season as a time with low to no income. They know that the farm production will not be enough and they can only hope that the cooler season would allow them to make up for what was lost during the hot season.

This year, however, instead of the usual withering of the leaves and dying of farm crops, the vibrant lush green throughout most of the farms remained. A lot of the farmers attributed this development to the recent initiative which the community embarked on.
Abdullah Al Jasassi, the wakeel, or agent of aflaj in Ibri, shared that a new irrigation system was put in place thanks to the community coming together and raising OMR 15,000.
Coming through the form of donation, the money financed the project’s main aim, to extend the water pipes from the water source up to the entrance of the farms. From the entrance of the farms, the water stream joins the existing narrow falaj channels collecting the water in the huge ground cistern that once filled, then begin the distribution to the beneficiary farms.
Al Jasassi shared that this enhancement has resulted in many good things especially in the farmers resolved to farm.
“The older system resulted in a lot of water wasted. Through this initiative, we saved a lot of water because of better water transport. From the around 10 farms that benefitted from the old irrigation system, we managed to ration the water to now more than 60 farms because the water pumps are more efficient in delivering the water to the tanks in the farms,” he said.
Al Jasassi said that they are still looking for other means to help the farmers more but so far, they are happy that the result is already felt by the farmer beneficiaries.
“We are looking forward to increasing the cultivation of palm trees. It this works according to plan, we will be growing more than 3000 more palm trees during 2019,” he said.

The success was because of the volunteers
While there are many farms now that benefit through the initiative, Al Jassassi and the farmers shared that it wouldn’t have been possible if not for the help of volunteers.
The enhancement project came after the “Almabioth” falaj channel was repaired by the Al Suwaid volunteers. It took them 330 days to go through the full extent of the falaj and fix and remove debris in the system.
Mahmoud al Yaqoubi, a member of the Al Suwaid volunteer team, shared that when they formed the volunteer group, they started with only 10 members.
“When the community heard what we were doing, the number started to increase day by day until eventually, we have 40 volunteers working to accomplish our goal,” he said.
Al Yaqoubi said that there were a few challenges along the way which included not having the proper drilling and safety equipment and at the earlier stages, the lack of financial support.
Al Yaquobi said that in the 330 days of voluntary work, they collected and cleaned tons of dust and debris and some parts of the falaj, they have to clean up to 30 metres to make sure that nothing blocks the way of the water.
Since the enhanced system was put in place, farmers had better time ploughing and tending to their crops. Farms in Ibri grow alfalfa, animal feed, vegetables and different variety of fruits.
Mohammed al Yaqoubi, one of the farmer-beneficiary, said that “the new irrigation project has made farmers more interested in farming operations that help a lot in their economic and social life.”
Agricultural farming has been passed down from generation to generation in Ibri becoming the main source of income for most families.
“In my farm, we grow vegetables, fruits, and other seasonal fruits and root crops. Whatever we harvest is sold to the market at a reasonable price. For example, a tomato box now does not exceed more than one riyal and 200 baiza. We also have cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkin, and other things all sold at reasonable prices,” Mohammed said.
Salman al Madhari, another beneficiary farmer, said that the people were very happy to see an increase in water because of the new irrigation project.
He said more water allows them to plant more and cover more ground for their orchards and various crops.
Al Madhari said that he is all praise for the volunteers who did a lot for them by cleaning the falaj and is happy that the community came together since it will eventually benefit everyone in the long run.