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

Interest in irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa has revived since 2000, in line with the revival of interest in agricultural development and food security in general. 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). Most farmers in SSA are smallholders, and much of the increased area under irrigation seen in the new century has come from FLI, rather than from public schemes or the irrigation on large commercial farms.