With continued rainfall uncertainty, and a perception that water resources are underused, there is renewed interest in irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2007, five international organizations (World Bank, AfDB, FAO, IFAD and IWMI) jointly prepared a collaborative agricultural water strategy, and the following year established the Agricultural Water for Africa (AgWA) partnership with the objective of promoting:

“Increased investment in agricultural water management that is socially equitable, profitable at the farm level, economically viable, environmentally sound and sustainable” (AgWA, 2010)

More recently, the World Bank (2010) has argued for large-scale investment leading to an “aggressive expansion of Africa’s irrigated agricultural area”.

Research aims

It remains unclear what type of irrigation is appropriate for different African contexts. This research project seeks to focus on the following questions:

  • In what different ways do development agencies (Government and non-Government) engage with farmers’ irrigation initiatives?
  • How do different policy-making priorities and assumptions shape this engagement in the interconnected political domains of irrigation development, community development, agricultural development and natural resources management?
  • To what extent are development agencies’ policies modified as a result of engagement with farmers in irrigation development?
  • How do different groups of farmers engage in farmer-led irrigation, including not taking part in (or being excluded from) irrigation, and with what outcomes for their assets and abilities to derive benefits from agriculture?
  • Based on the findings of the research can we identify a typology of irrigation initiatives that would be useful for policy makers?
  • What is the wider country-level significance of these farmer-led irrigation initiatives?

Case studies will be undertaken in two countries, and the analysis of findings will be used to inform future initiatives and policies for irrigation.

The project team is engaging with policy makers from Government agencies, International Development Agencies, and non-government organisations.

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