The Virtual Irrigation Academy (VIA) hosted a conference on the Chameleon Sensor from 12 to 13 June at the Future Africa Conference Centre at the University of Pretoria. On 12 June delegates were introduced to this unique soil moisture managing system with practical demonstrations. The next day various role-players shared their experiences with this system that is revolutionising irrigation and water management for smallholder farmers across Africa.

Simple and easy to use

This simple device, that is easily installed in the soil of any crop production system, communicates the current level of soil moisture in a practical manner using three coloured lights. If the soil is dry the red light goes on, if the soil moisture is sufficient, a green light shines, and if the soil has been over watered the light appears blue.

In this way the Chameleon Sensor shows farmers if their irrigation has successfully watered the soil. It also teaches farmers to adapt their irrigation practices if they tend to over-irrigate. 

After a day filled with testimonials it was clear that the sensor also plays an important role in educating small-scale farmers about water management and effective irrigation management. Various other aspects also improved due to this device. For example, fuel and labour was reduced as many farmers realised they were giving the crops too much water.

Improved crop knowledge

Many involved in the projects where this device has been used in Africa, also report that it reduced conflicts in areas that rely on irrigation water schemes. It even improved the general knowledge of crop production.

Take for example irrigating seedlings versus full grown crops. Farmers quickly learn by looking at the sensors, that smaller plants require much less irrigation because their roots are less developed. It improved yield and production while saving up to 50% in water.

One of the testimonials shared on the day was by Tsepo Motswamai from World Vision which oversaw the trials done with the sensor in Lesotho. Learn more about their experience in the video below.

It can be used with equal success by small-scale and commercial farmers. Even commercial farmers in Africa and South Africa can improve their resource management with this device. With the increased occurrence of drought in these regions this sensor has the potential to impact the commercial sector on an equal scale as it has the small holder sector.

Click here to see more stories about the Chameleon Sensor on VIA’s website. – Ursula Human, AgriOrbit