Provinces in the Central Highlands plan to create 948 more irrigation sites by 2020, to water at least 80 percent of cultivated land in the region, according to the Tay Nguyen Steering Committee.

The existing irrigation network can only ensure water for 71 percent of cultivated land, equivalent to nearly 1.9 million hectares, including more than 560,000ha of coffee.

The flow of water has helped change the cultivating practices of local farmers, allowing them to grow two rice crops a year, at the same time at least doubling rice and coffee productivity compared to areas which have access only to rain water.

Farmers harvest between 4.8 to 5 tonnes of rice and 2.8 to 4 tonnes of coffee beans per hectare each year in areas around irrigation systems, while in other areas the output is only 1-1.5 tonnes for rice and 0.5-0.8 tonnes for coffee.

However, many reservoirs and pumping stations, particularly those in remote areas, have degraded and been in dire need of upgrading.

Local provinces also plan to upgrade 589 existing irrigation points in the next six years.

The Central Highlands, also known collectively as Tay Nguyen, contain the provinces of Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Gia Lai, Kon Tum and Lam Dong. Situated at an average altitude of 500m, the region’s soil is mostly basalt ic, suitable for planting coffee tree s, rubber , pepper and other industrial crops, with coffee the most important product.-VNA