Pathways for irrigation development in Africa

irrigationA new working paper and summary reviews the policies and practices around irrigation in Africa, through case studies from three countries.

Pathways for irrigation development in Africa – insights from Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique
by Naomi Oates, Guy Jobbins, Beatrice Mosello and John Arnold

Working Paper 119
The full text of the working paper

Summary of Working Paper 119
A summary with key findings, recommendations and highlights from 3 countries

Blog: Making irrigation work for Africa: 10 questions decision makers must ask

Irrigation has played an important role in agricultural modernisation around the world. In Africa, however, agricultural production has increased very slowly over the last fifty years, barely keeping pace with population growth. After a period of relative neglect, the international community is showing renewed interest in African irrigation as a means to tackle food insecurity, increasing water scarcity and climate change. Calls for increased investment present an opportunity to learn from past experiences in order to chart plausible pathways for future development.

About the paper

This working paper reviews the policies and practices that have shaped irrigation development in Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique of the last fifty years. The research combines an analysis of sector trends with case studies of specific irrigation schemes, considering linkages between policy, practice and performance, drivers of change, and key issues for future policymaking.

These three countries have followed unique political and developmental trajectories over the last five decades. However in the irrigation sector there are some striking similarities, in part a reflection of Africa-wide trends. Enduring challenges remain in managing irrigation to increase agricultural output and water productivity, ensure sustainability and contribute to poverty reduction and economic development. Many of these challenges pertain to wider issues in the agricultural sector or governance of land and water, rather than irrigation per se. Beyond technical interventions, there is a need to account for water at multiple levels, improve monitoring and sector coordination, and manage trade-offs transparently. Given the poor performance of state-managed irrigation, the private sector is often perceived as an attractive alternative. Nonetheless, the state has an important role to play in enforcing safeguards for local communities and ensuring that commercial agriculture contributes to the greater good.