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Irrigation in Senegal
How can reliable water access contribute to nutrition security in Africa south of the Sahara?
IFPRI research on water for sustainable development
Globally, an estimated 805 million people are chronically undernourished, many of them in Africa south of the Sahara (SSA), where 329 million also lack access to improved water supply and 640 million do not have access to an improved sanitation facility.
The linkages between water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and nutrition have long been recognized. Poor WASH is considered a leading cause of diarrhea, nematode infections, and other conditions such as environmental enteropathy, which is caused by frequent intestinal infections and has received renewed attention in recent years.
Water is also an essential resource for growing food, and water scarcity is a major limiting factor for crop and livestock production in many parts of the world, where rainfall is scarce or erratic. There is great potential to expand small-scale irrigation in SSA, as only 6 percent of the cultivated area in the region is currently irrigated. Rain-fed cereal crops such as maize, sorghum, or millet and roots and tubers are key staples for many households in SSA. Yet these crops have limited nutritional and market value, and their potential to improve nutrition is therefore limited. In contrast, irrigated agriculture is frequently used to grow nutritious vegetables and fruits throughout the year, with important nutritional and health benefits for consumers. The nutritional and food security benefits of small-scale irrigation, however, are rarely recognized in many nutrition-sensitive interventions.
A recent IFPRI Discussion Paper, “Is Reliable Water Access the Solution to Undernutrition? A Review of the Potential of Irrigation to Solve Nutrition and Gender Gaps in Africa South of the Sahara”, identifies four main impact pathways linking irrigation to positive nutrition and health outcomes:
Read the full article: IFPRI
Author: Willem Van Cotthem
Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development. View all posts by Willem Van Cotthem
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