Irrigation for Agricultural Transformation

Agriculture is one of the major social and economic sectors in Africa since farming accounts for two thirds of livelihoods and food for two thirds of poor people’s household budget (Africa Progress report, 2015). The consequence is that improved people’s wellbeing depends for a major part on the performance of the agricultural sector in Africa. Still today and despite rapid economic growth in Africa over the past years (more than 5 percent in many countries in Sub-Saharan), the performance of agricultural sector is low and hunger continues to be a risk, in particular in the Horn of Africa and Sahel region. Rural vulnerability, low resilience to climatic effects and poverty are still deep in rural areas and nutrition is poor. Agricultural transformation is needed in Africa to address these challenges and irrigation is one pillar to contribute to such transformation. Agriculture is the main pillar mentioned in several African Union reports (Strategic and Operational Plan, 2014-2017: Fostering the African Agenda on Agricultural Growth and Transformation and Sound Environmental Management, AU/DREA January 2014) and Regional Economic Communities (RECs: IGAD, ECOWAS, …etc.), in National Investment Plans of African countries (NIP) and in National Agricultural Investment Plans (NAIP), and within UN agencies reports (e.g. FAO). Thus, a high level of political and strategic will is expressed through the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and whose implementation is through the CAADP Compact Process for each country, validated by governments and civil society organizations and supported by technical and financial partners. CAADP Pillar 1 concerns land and water management and irrigation is one main sector underlined. To develop irrigation for African agriculture, it is necessary to address the following constraints: • Climatic uncertainties and change. • Water and land resources scarcity, soil fertility and the sustainability in use. • Cultural, social and economic factors (population growth, increasing food demand, pressure on land and water exploitation, customary rules for land tenure and water rights). • Technical skills, institutional capacities. • Development of value chain activities, including market accessibility and services, to complement irrigation development. • Capacities of countries to undertake heavy investments in agricultural and irrigation sector. In Africa, most agricultural land is rain-fed and subject to erratic rainfall and recurrent droughts, leading to low agricultural sector performance. This includes low resilience of rural people to climatic effects, irregular production and low productivity, low intensification and crop diversification, and weak value chain and market development. It is important to underline the importance of CAADP in Africa and the CAADP Compact Process in countries, since action is taken mainly in this framework, in particular CAADP’s Pillar 1. The keyirrigation-specific elements of CAADP’s Pillar 1 are: • Investments at small-scale and for smallholders who account for 80 percent of farmers. • Policy of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) (e.g. the Irrigation Initiative for the Sahel Region, 2015, an irrigation plan for six Sahel countries (ECOWAS/CILSS and WB). 3 • Large scale irrigation systems: to develop, modernize or rehabilitate irrigation schemes. • Water harvesting combined with soil moisture management, where deficit and supplementary irrigation techniques are adopted in rainfed areas (e.g. a community-based watershed management in the Amhara region of Ethiopia). The African Union (AU) has also developed an “African Water Vision” for equitable and sustainable use of water for socioeconomic development, which highlights water for urban and sanitation (WASH) and also irrigation as key elements (Africa Water Vision 2025, AU and AfDB). The AU’s African “Agenda 2063” (, which outlines a framework for African transformation and over the next 50 years, also highlights agricultural transformation. In the context of the climatic and natural resources situation in Africa and the political will expressed by its leaders, this report discussed how best irrigation can be developed to support agricultural transformation in Africa.

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