Drip Irrigation

Small-scale water management, including the application of pumps, drip irrigation, or wells, can raise agricultural productivity in places where water can constrain plant growth. Most Africans live in the sub-humid or arid tropics, with few rivers to provide irrigation and a lack of large alluvial plains typical in much of South and East Asia that permit cheap irrigation. As a result, Africa has the lowest share of irrigated cropland of any major region in the developed world. Moreover, rainfall in much of the continent is erratic, vulnerable to high seasonal and year-to-year fluctuations, and the land is subject to high rates of evapotranspiration. Indeed, of all major regions, Africa loses the largest share of its precipitation to evapotranspiration. To improve crop irrigation in the arid and sub-humid regions where most Africans live, it is generally acknowledged that small-scale and technically simple water management systems are most appropriate because of their low cost and ease of operation and maintenance. Options include water harvesting through the use of embankments, check dams and small impoundment dams, shallow wells, drip irrigation (pictured at right), and treadle or diesel pumps. Experience in Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Sudan shows that rain harvested from one hectare for supplementary irrigation of another can triple or even quadruple production.

In the MV Sim, irrigation mitigates the adverse effect of a drought on agricultural production.

For more information, see:

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 1996. "Special Feature: Crucial Role of Irrigation Development in Increasing Food Production in Sub-Saharan Africa." Africa Report 05/96. Rome.