Irrigationist

South Africa is a water scarce country that experiences variable rainfall, seasonally and geographically, agriculture uses 67% of available water in South Africa. Smart, water wise irrigation systems can help the efficient use of water resources in agriculture, that is key to the economy and ensuring food security. Irrigation involves the watering of crops through varied systems of tubes, pumps and sprays so that crops receive the optimal amount of water to grow.

Irrigationists install and maintain irrigation systems to ensure optimum soil moisture levels for the production of crops. They lay pipes down with a predetermined number of sprinkler heads at specified points or adjust lateral-moving irrigation systems to maximise the watering of crop areas. They also perform maintenance of these systems by repairing or replacing valves, pumps and other equipment. They can further install timers and clocks as well as prepare equipment for use during winter periods.

Irrigationists work in teams, coordinating with farm managers and supervisors in the irrigation of crops. They predominately work outdoors in farming areas and can be exposed to adverse weather conditions.

Skills

A good understanding of basic irrigation, hydraulic and electrical principles is needed by irrigationists. They will additionally benefit from:

  • Physically fitness and stamina to walk large farm fields
  • Ability to read blueprints and technical diagrams
  • Capability to drive and operate farming machinery
  • Good teamwork and communication competence

Tasks

Assemble, disassemble or move portable irrigation systems

Measure and estimate the quantity of water required

Operate water pumps, regulating and controlling water flows

Monitor and perform maintenance on all parts of an irrigation system

Studies

Irrigationists can benefit from a National Certificate in Landscape Irrigation at National Qualifications Framework Level 1 to 2, accredited by the Agriculture Sector Education Training Authority.  

They can also benefit from a National Certificate in Primary Agriculture in Plant Production at National Qualifications Framework Levels 1 to 2 at most Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges. However, most training takes place on the job with mentoring by an experienced irrigation technician.

Employers

National and provincial government.

Commercial and small-scale farms.

Agricultural co-operatives.

Research institutions.

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