Small-scale agriculture holds big promise for Africa

The recent discovery of a large aquifer in Kenya is a reminder that far from being dry, Africa has abundant water resources. The problem for farmers is access: only around 6% of cultivated land is equipped for irrigation, leaving millions dependent on rain-fed agriculture. How might more of them be helped to access water that could raise their productivity? Large-scale, government-funded irrigation systems have long attempted to address this, with varying degrees of success. Those systems have a place, but research by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has found that many smallholders are themselves taking the lead and investing in their own low-cost, small-scale irrigation systems. Surveys carried out by IWMI as part of its AgWater Solutions project revealed a growing trend for individual and community-owned agricultural water management systems. In Ghana, for instance, small private irrigation schemes were found to cover 25 times more land than public irrigation schemes.