How can irrigation contribute to agricultural growth in Africa?

International commitment to funding African Irrigation is rising as a response to increased food prices and continuing low productivity of agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa.

This research project, funded by ESRC – DFID, brings together a team of social science researchers and irrigation scientists from the UK, Europe and Africa. The project seeks to understand if current investment by farmers in small-scale irrigation can offer a model for broad-based economic growth in rural areas of Africa.

A clear systematic analysis of existing initiatives will inform policies to generate growth in agricultural productivity, give a greater understanding of social and economic consequences, of changing land and water rights, and the choices of technical and financial support required.

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The SAFI Project team have published an article in The Journal of Peasant Studies, “African farmer-led irrigation development: re-framing agricultural policy and investment?”

The paper argues that there needs to be a re-appraisal of current dynamics of irrigation development in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly with respect to the role of small-scale producers’ initiatives in expanding irrigation. The paper reviews the principal forms such initiatives take and argues that official narratives and statistics on African irrigation often underestimate the extent of such activities. The paper identifies five key characteristics which, it argues, contradict widely held assumptions that inform irrigation policy in Africa. The paper concludes by offering a definition of ‘farmer-led irrigation’ that embraces a range of interaction between producers and commercial, government and non-government agencies, and identifies priority areas for research on the growth potential and impact of such interactions and strategies for their future development.

Mid term meetings were held in Arusha, Tanzania on 31st August 2016 and Maputo, Mozambique on 6th September 2016 to report on fieldwork progress and initial findings.
The SAFI Project Team were also part of a joint project workshop with the National Irrigation Commission held in Dar es Salaam on 2nd September 2016. Discussions focused on ‘New Directions for Irrigation Development in Tanzania in the Context of Public Private Partnership’

Fieldwork is continuing in Mozambique at Ruaca-Chirodzo, Vanduzi, Nhamatande, Macate and Nampula. In Tanzania the research team is working in Same District, at Manyara, Mangola and Isenyela, and in Kilombero and Iringa.

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