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Farmer-led irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia is transforming food security

 

Photo credit: CGIAR

Farmers manually irrigate a field in Kumasi, Ghana.Photo Credit: Bernard Keraita/IWMI

Water-smart investment benefits ripple beyond food security

Nearly four years ago, researchers documented for the first time how farmer-led irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia is transforming food security at an astonishing scale. They also showed that smallholder water management innovations hold potential to boost crop yields and household revenue by tens of billions of US dollars.

Since then, however, new research for development has revealed how small-scale irrigation may have benefits that reach far beyond food security alone.

Four ways to invest in smallholder irrigation

The research was initially carried out by the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) and its partners under the AgWater Solutions project. At its conclusion, the project recommended four key areas that investments should focus on in order to unlock the potential of small-scale irrigation:

  1. increasing access to water resources, including sustainable groundwater, small reservoirs and rainwater harvesting;
  2. catalyzing smallholder value chains, removing information and marketing constraints;
  3. creating policy synergies, such as aligned energy policies; and
  4. taking a watershed perspective to reduce adverse environmental impacts.

Learn more: Water for wealth and food security: Supporting farmer-driven investments in agricultural water management.

Building on this work, WLE and USAID have supported research and development of business models that can operationalize these recommendations, while also exploring new solutions and creating a better understanding of potential additional impacts and benefits from investments in smallholder irrigation.

New technologies produce new opportunities and remove constraints

One new opportunity is solar pumps, which has only recently become a financially viable option for smallholder farmers. Solar power irrigation has taken off in India and is starting to take hold in sub-Saharan Africa, where solar powered pumps can serve as a more versatile, green alternative to motor pumps. The Africa Rising project, in collaboration with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), has begun demonstrating solar powered pumps in two regions of Ethiopia.

Read the full article: CGIAR

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.