Framework for Irrigation Development and Agricultural Water Management in Africa
Reliable access to water is essential to increase crop production and mitigate drought across Africa. This is all
the more so as climate change brings greater uncertainty and the demand for food escalates with population
growth. The African Union (AU) has responded actively to these challenges. For example, it has established the
Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) and the 2014 Malabo Declaration on
Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods. This is
the vehicle for agricultural development across Africa and supports the first aspiration in the AU Agenda 2063
of “A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development”.
On the ground, Africa is seeing widespread and rapid irrigation growth especially among market-oriented
smallholder farmers. The total area under Agricultural Water Management (AWM) in Africa, including irrigation
and other water-management technologies, is officially estimated to be 18.6 Mha1
. However, emerging
evidence clearly reveals this as an under-estimation. For example, farmer-led irrigation development (FLID)
covers an extensive area that is not officially recorded and included in national databases. While the remaining
potential for AWM expansion on the continent is substantial, it is limited by local environmental and economic
constraints. The remaining potential areas are in line with projections of the expansion of the AWM area that
is needed to meet food needs by 2050. While such targets seem modest, the investment financing that is
required to achieve this is substantial. The framework for Irrigation Development and Agricultural Water
Management (IDAWM) in Africa aims to support regional and national strategies and project implementation
to achieve continental targets, by promoting country-level initiatives in AWM. Key issues and opportunities are
identified in the framework. This provides a basis for ongoing discussion of agricultural water priorities leading
to more evidence-based knowledge.
The framework is structured around four strategic AWM areas or agricultural water developmental pathways
and includes: AWM in rainfed farming; farmer-led irrigation; scheme development and modernisation; and
waste-water recovery and reuse. The cross-cutting issues address themes and actionable areas that should be
emphasized and supported to reap the benefits of AWM as well as to promote its expansion and sustainability.
The framework calls for a broad view of opportunities, while considering national peculiarities, and the need to
address parallel pathways, to accelerate adoption of water and climate-wise AWM methods. The challenge for
national policymakers is to use institutional reform to facilitate and enable the process that supports farmer-
led irrigation development, technology, financial and agro-market access, and secure land and water tenure,
particularly for private-sector and community partnerships.