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Farmer-led irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa: synthesis of current understandings

Resource type: Report

Published: 2019

Author: Bruce Lankford, Steve Wiggins

Interest in irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa has revived since 2000. Compared to Asia, where more than one-third of cultivated land is irrigated, official records for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) show corresponding statistics of just 4% to 6% of cultivated land irrigated. To meet Africa’s food needs in 2050 without increased imports will almost certainly require a considerable expansion of irrigation.

This report focuses on irrigation initiated by smallholders, ‘farmer-led irrigation’ (FLI), and addresses the following questions:

  • What is known about the extent of FLI in sub-Saharan Africa in the 2010s? What has been developed, and how?
  • How successful has FLI been? What problems arise? How do such developments compare to irrigation that has been initiated by public authorities?
  • How has public policy either assisted or hindered FLI? What are the lessons for policy-makers?

This synthesis brings together findings from research conducted under the DFID-ESRC Growth Research Programme (DEGRP) with the wider literature on irrigation in SSA.


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