Individual Farmers' Irrigation Flying Under the Radar

Despite increased efforts to expand irrigation in Tanzania, the country is still well below its declared target of one million hectares of irrigated land. Or is it?

New research reveals that official statistics often don’t include irrigation set up run by individual farmers. This would appear to be good news, but very little is known about this under-the-radar irrigation. The big question for policymakers now is how to respond.

Over the past decade, efforts to boost irrigation in Africa have increased significantly in response to a variety of issues. These include ongoing low productivity, rising food prices, and growing concerns that climate change will impact Africa’s already unpredictable weather. This could have a knock-on effect on agriculture.

Tanzania’s irrigation development exemplifies this trend. The total area of irrigated land doubled between 2004 and 2014. This promises big increases in food security. Crop yields are estimated to be two to four times higher on irrigated than non-irrigated land. Irrigated agriculture already contributes to 24% of Tanzania’s national food requirements from only 4% of the country’s total cultivated land area.

Ollivier Girard/CIFOR


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