Catalyzing farmers’ irrigation investments: recommendations to scale sustainable rural transformation

Smallholder farms in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) number around 33 million, represent 80% of all farms in the region, and contribute up to 90% of food production in some SSA countries (Wiggins and Keats, 2013). Smallholder farmers face multiple challenges. Rain is unpredictable and weather-related disasters, such as droughts, floods, severe storms and heat waves are increasing. There is often a lack of infrastructure, such as roads, reliable transportation, storage facilities and access to markets. Consequently, many smallholder farmers and farming communities in SSA have unstable incomes, and are subjected to food and water insecurity. A study by Van Ittersum et al. (2016) revealed that meeting the growing cereal demand by 2050 would require sustainable expansion of the irrigated production area alongside efforts to close the yield gap and other components of intensification.