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African smallholders can double their yields with half the water

Better access to irrigation for farmers is key for climate change adaptation. Until recently, irrigation had never taken off in Africa for multiple reasons from poor maintenance planning to lack of inputs and market access. Many donor and government-funded large and small-scale irrigation schemes lay dry after a few years of exploitation.

Water experts estimate that only 4 to 7 percent of arable land is irrigated in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the lowest ratio across the world. Over the past decade, donors have renewed their interest in funding irrigation projects to tackle the high food insecurity in the region. Experts predict that irrigated areas in SSA from 1998 to 2030 will increase by 30 percent. There are also opportunities to improve the performance of existing irrigated areas.

In a special series on small-scale communal irrigation in South-Eastern Africa published earlier this year, farming systems experts are calling for donors to avoid failures of the past by developing a viable, sustainable and inclusive business model for small-scale public irrigation schemes in Sub-Saharan Africa. This work is led by the Australian National University including partners like International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Zimbabwe. It was funded by the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research and the Water, Lands and Ecosystems CGIAR research programme.


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