Farmer-led irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa: building on farmer initiatives

Briefing papers
July 2019
Steve Wiggins, Bruce Lankford

To feed sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in 2050 without large additional imports requires more productive agriculture. Irrigation can make a big difference, but currently as little as 4%–6% of sub-Saharan Africa’s cultivated land is irrigated, despite water being available to irrigate larger areas.

This brief explores the policy implications for improving farmer-led irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa, addressing three questions:

  • How much FLI in SSA has there been by the 2010s? What has been developed, and how?
  • How successful has FLI been? What problems arise? How do such developments compare to irrigation initiated by public authorities?
  • How has public policy assisted or hindered FLI? What are the lessons for policy-makers?

The brief is based on a synthesis of findings from research conducted under the DFID-ESRC Growth Research Programme (DEGRP) and the wider literature on irrigation in SSA, especially relatively recent findings.