Smart Irrigation Strategies for Africa

Food production in Africa still relies almost exclusively on rain-fed agriculture, leaving farmers and rural communities vulnerable to extreme climate conditions. Yet there is vast potential to scale-up irrigation, particularly across sub-Saharan Africa and to improve resilience to climate shocks, the report finds.

The report Smart Irrigation Strategies for Africa was launched in December 2018 by the Malabo Montpellier Panel Forum. It highlights success stories from six African countries where greater levels of irrigation have led to better and longer harvests, higher incomes and improved prospects for farmers.
Just six per cent of cultivated land is currently irrigated in Africa, compared to 14 per cent in Latin America and 37 per cent in Asia. Analysing best practices from Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Niger and South Africa, the authors find that yields from irrigated crops can double or more those of comparable rain-fed yields on the continent. Moreover, under climate change the economic benefits obtained from expanding areas under irrigation are estimated to  double the costs.

The report authors found several common features among the countries that have made significant progress in expanding irrigation, and offer nine recommendations to help others meet food security and nutrition targets under the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Malabo Declaration.

The report highlights the business case for irrigation development, pointing out that in the most vulnerable parts of Africa, irrigated agriculture also means farmers can extend the growing season, increase productivity and incomes, and improve their livelihoods.

In Niger, one of the countries with the fastest pace of irrigation expansion, up to 20 per cent of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) is generated through irrigated agriculture.

But the authors reiterated that expansion must be planned carefully to avoid adverse impacts on the environment and human health.

(Malabo Montpellier Panel/ile)

More information and download the report Smart Irrigation Strategies for Africa:

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