Small-scale irrigation. Photo for representational purpose only.

Increasing Water Productivity to Improve Food Security in sub-Saharan Africa

Small-scale irrigation. Photo for representational purpose only.

Small-scale irrigation. Photo for representational purpose only. Photo: ICRISAT

A new study presents initial findings from a collaborative research project on increasing irrigation water productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through on-farm monitoring, adaptive management and agricultural innovation platforms. These findings essentially highlight the challenges associated with increasing the productivity and profitability of small-scale communal irrigation systems in the context of growing food demand and water scarcity.

In many African countries, great reliance has been placed on irrigation to meet food security and significant investments were made in irrigation infrastructure in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, the authors argue that these schemes have had limited success as they fail to factor in small-scale irrigation. The point of departure of this research is monitoring irrigation water, soil water, nitrate, salt and groundwater levels, which will help farmers to understand the root causes for degradation of irrigated lands and low yields.

The overall objectives of the research are to: Evaluate whether ‘Agricultural Innovation Platforms’ based on existing community organizations can identify and overcome institutional and market barriers to greater water productivity; Develop, test and deploy water monitoring systems for enhancing agricultural productivity and; Identify and communicate economic and policy incentive mechanisms to enhance water productivity.

Initial research findings contributing to the above objectives have been published as a special issue, by the International Journal of Water Resources Development.It is titled ‘The productivity and profitability of small scale communal irrigation systems in South-eastern Africa’

Research contributions from ICRISAT scientists to this study are:

Profitability and productivity barriers and opportunities in small-scale irrigation schemes

Henning Bjornlund, Andre van Rooyen & Richard Stirzaker

Irrigation development in Zimbabwe: understanding productivity barriers and opportunities at Mkoba and Silalatshani irrigation schemes

Moyo, A. van Rooyen, M. Moyo, P. Chivenge & H. Bjornlund

An overview of extension use in irrigated agriculture and case studies in south-eastern Africa

Sarah Ann Wheeler, Alec Zuo, Henning Bjornlund, Makarius Victor Mdemu, Andre van Rooyen & Paiva Munguambe

Theory and application of Agricultural Innovation Platforms for improved irrigation scheme management in Southern Africa

André F. van Rooyen, Peter Ramshaw, Martin Moyo, Richard Stirzaker & Henning Bjornlund

Irrigating Africa: policy barriers and opportunities for enhanced productivity of smallholder farmers

Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba, Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Jamie Pittock, Richard Stirzaker, Henning Bjornlund, Andre van Rooyen, Paiva Munguambe, Makarius Victor Mdemu & Japhet J. Kashaigili

Communal irrigation systems in South-Eastern Africa: findings on productivity and profitability

Jamie Pittock, Henning Bjornlund, Richard Stirzaker & Andre van Rooyen

These efforts are undertaken by a larger project on ‘Increasing Irrigation Water Productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through On-Farm Monitoring, Adaptive Management and Agricultural Innovation Platforms’ and is part of CGIAR’s Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.

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