Bamboo Drip Irrigation: A Marvel By Meghalaya’s Native Farmers
Meghalaya – Blessed by Nature

Meghalaya is located in the most serene places on earth. A state blessed with nature’s untouched forests, high plateaus, crystal clear waterfalls, rivers and winding streams.

Regardless of the time of the year, the weather here is pleasant. Meghalaya enjoys abundant sunshine, clear blue sky and yes, lots of rain too.

Meghalaya is well-known for having the highest rainfall in the world of about 11500 mm recorded annually. This makes Meghalaya the wettest places on earth. Though the local areas get a lot of rain during the monsoon season, a well-managed water system is a need during the dry season.

Most Farmers Traditional Farming Methods

Over 80% of the population of Meghalaya depend on agriculture and most of them own small family farms and follow traditional farming methods. A good irrigation system is an imperative for successful farming.

Read on to see how these farmers who follow traditional farming methods have a traditional irrigation system designed by themselves.

A 200 years old Traditional Irrigation System

The topography in Meghalaya is hilly, with steep slopes due to which there are two challenges the farmers of Meghalaya face.

First, the water-retention capacity of the terrain is poor.

Second, bringing water from distant water sources to the fields is a big challenge for the farmers in the rural areas.

Ground channeling is also impractical due to the harsh landscape. Confronted with such adverse conditions for irrigation, the traditional farmers of Meghalaya have come up with an innovative way that works. Since olden times, farmers of Meghalaya who mostly follow traditional farming methods have been utilizing an indigenous, traditional irrigation method of bamboo drip irrigation system to water their crops.

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What is Bamboo Drip Irrigation?

Bamboo Drip Irrigation is an innovative irrigation method that makes use of streams and spring water sources on hilltops and directs them to fields of Betel Leaf and dark pepper crops planted in Arecanut plantations. Bamboo channels are utilized to tap perennial water from up-slopes, which is cleverly diverted to the lower parts using gravity. An ingenious system that wastes very little water and works to this day.

Bamboo Drip irrigation framework is widely prevalent in the War areas, Jaintia hills of Meghalaya and extends to the Muktapur area adjoining Bangladesh. These areas have steep slopes with a rough landscape. Hence, using ground channels in this area is unfavorable. So, bamboo drip irrigation is widely preferred.

How Does Bamboo Drip Irrigation, A Traditional Irrigation, Work?

Usually, water sources are distant from plantation sites and so the main bamboo channel runs several meters, sometimes even a couple of kilometres. Water is thus obtained and managed through a brilliant bamboo system of secondary and tertiary channels to reach each part and corners of the plantation, up to the base of the hill.

Channel sections are made of bamboos of different diameters, to control the water flow in such a way that the water reaches the site in the lower reaches, where it is circulated without spillage. The channels are supported by forked branches.  

Bamboo has a natural hollow inside, which is why it becomes possible to use it as a conduit for water. We understand that to create the channels about one-third to half of the diameter of the bamboo is sliced off, including the inter-nodes.

Depending on the slope and the direction in which the water needs to travel to reach the field, different sizes of bamboo are used.

One must see it to understand the intricacy and the smartness of the system. It is estimated that even up to 20 liters of water flows into the channel every minute, from the main water source, which further travels a few hundred meters and becomes a trickle so that when it drops there is a better chance of absorption. A true drip irrigation system.

The last channel segment allows the water to be dropped close to the base of the plant.

Drip irrigation using bamboo in Meghalaya


According to research done by A.Singh, in his book Bamboo Drip Irrigation Systems, two workers can construct a system covering one hectare of land in 15 days.

Self-Managed, Traditional Irrigation System

Upkeep and maintenance of this bamboo drip irrigational, which can be called a traditional irrigation system, are done by the farmers themselves. They utilise their collective skill sets and labour to maintain this water system.

Repair work is done as and when required. Efforts have been made to introduce modern pipe frameworks, but traditional farmers prefer to utilize their indigenous method of traditional irrigation system. And, why not!

They have such a holistic and beautiful system going. These traditional farmers trust their old traditional methods and continue to use them.

Drip irrigation using bamboo

Why Do Farmers in Meghalaya Prefer Using Bamboo?

In a time when global warming, depletion of resources and deforestation threatens the balance of the delicate natural world and its diverse ecosystems, bamboo is a viable solution and resource that is both remarkably useful and eco-friendly.

It is a sustainable renewable resource and appeals to traditional farmers of Meghalaya who prefer sustainable farming methods.

Bamboo is one plant that stands above the rest in terms of usefulness and speed of growth. Bamboo forests grow naturally and stretch across large expanses throughout Meghalaya.

Here are 4 reasons why traditional farmers of Meghalaya use bamboo for drip irrigation, which is a traditional irrigation method:

  1. Bamboo is a miracle plant used by locals as a sturdy building material for drip irrigation. It has the same strength as steel, but lighter in weight and cheaper.
  2. It grows rapidly – bamboo plant can grow a few feet a day and reach maturity within two years. Even after the harvesting season, it self-propagates and new bamboo forest can quickly spring up preventing deforestation and soil erosion. It is thus easily available for farmers.
  3. Unlike other plants, bamboo is naturally antibacterial and does not need harmful pesticides and fertilizers to grow. It also produces about 35% oxygen which keeps the air clean.
  4. Bamboo is easily repairable and is bio-degradable. It can naturally turn into humus which can keep the soil fertile – a great support to sustainable farming methods.

Traditional farmers are aware of the green and sustainable use of bamboo. It is a renewable resource that regrows almost as quickly as it can be consumed and is thus a reliable resource for farmers for centuries to come.

Zizira is working with traditional farmers who follow sustainable farming methods. We are sourcing naturally grown produce directly from them and creating traditional remedies based on ancient knowledge of medicinal plants.

If you are looking to regenerate your lifestyle with a purpose, try our traditional concoctions, visit our store.

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1 comment

Kanchan kumar

Kanchan kumar

Very impressive and innovative idea. Keep it up, when all of you are so hardworking, Nature will bow down to help all of you all the time. Do not worry, be truthful always, and it will pay all of you until end. Lots of blessings.

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