Making the most of irrigation to reduce Africa's deficit
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CTA. 1988. Making the most of irrigation to reduce Africa's deficit. Spore 16. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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workshop on irrigation schemes in sub-Saharan Africa, in Harare from April 25-29, 1988 CTA in collaboration with the International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement (ILRI) of the Netherlands
The potential for irrigation development in sub-Saharan Africa is modest and is often overestimated. In some of the countries, however, it is the only remaining option for increasing food production for the growing populations, whose size has surpassed the limits of the carrying capacity of traditional rain-fed agriculture. In view of its concern to identify the factors that contribute to the success or failure of irrigation schemes in sub-Saharan Africa, CTA in collaboration with the International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement (ILRI) of the Netherlands, organized a workshop on the topic in Harare from April 25-29, 1988. The meeting dwelt essentially on socio-economic, institutional and cultural aspects of irrigation projects. Agricultural development and, in particular, irrigated agriculture, require long-term planning and involvement. This is hardly compatible with present-day short-term policies of donors, of administrations of recipient countries, or of both foreign and local politicians. An irrigation development programme should be part and parcel of an overall national development policy, which in turn should include appropriate technology and pricing that encourage production and promote the use of inputs. In sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is normally by far the most important single contributor to a country's Gross Domestic Product. Yet government expenditure to promote this sector is generally a small percentage of the total budget. Of late, however, irrigation has been receiving increasing attention in the planning of national development strategies for agricultural and food production. It readily atracts donors, but unfortunately many irrigation projects do not live up to expectations. One of the reasons is that the successful introduction of irrigation in countries where it is not traditional is more difficult than is generally realized. Another reason is a failure fully to understand the existing socio-economic factors. It does not suffice to construct a dam and canals, training of staff as well as the beneficiaries is an important aspect. In the preparation of a project for funding, the pressure of showing a favourable Economic Internal Rate of Return (EIRR) often takes precedence over the necessity to provide adequately for operation and maintenance. The EIRR, at the appraisal stage is, consequently, not a reliable indicator of the sustainability of the project. Irrigation will not succeed unless it offers farmers a substantial improvement over rewards from existing and, perhaps, less demanding work. Without a constant flow of resources for operation and maintenance, schemes decay. The financial outcome at farm and project level must therefore be the two primary tests of project sustainability. On the other hand, care should be taken about using other social benefits to balance EIRR. Socio-political benefits such as a contribution to national self-sufficiency, settlement of a frontier region, improvement of the position of women, and so on, will be attained only if the project proves sustainable. Successful implementation of irrigation projects depends on the establishment of effective water-user' associations. In practice, however, it is generally found that irrigation organizations are weak: they are understaffed, operate on a poor financial base and do not have welldefined working relationships with farmers, with water-users' associations, and with government administrations. These institutional constraints provide strong arguments for the phased development of an institutional infrastructure. Limited duration and insecure tenancy conditions, superimposed upon traditional systems of land-use rights, seem to be a major cause of failure in irrigation projects. The Harare meeting was attended by some 17 irrigation managers from both anglophone and francophone Africa, assisted by six international experts on irrigation.
- CTA Spore (English)