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Irrigation Investment Needs in Sub-Saharan Africa

Liang Zhi You

This study is part of the Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic (AICD), a project designed to expand the world’s knowledge of physical infrastructure in Africa. AICD will provide a baseline against which future improvements in infrastructure services can be measured, making it possible to monitor the results achieved from donor support. It should also provide a more solid empirical foundation for prioritizing investments and designing policy reforms in the infrastructure sectors in Africa. Almost half of the people of Sub-Saharan Africa live below the international poverty line. Because 65 percent of the region’s population farm for a living, agricultural development clearly is the royal road to ending poverty. And in view of the strong links between irrigation and agricultural development, proposals to expand irrigation to increase productivity and reduce poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa have received a good deal of attention. But attention has yet to be translated into action. The 2005 Commission for Africa report, for example, called for a doubling of the region’s irrigated area by 2015. To achieve expansion on that scale, however, we must deepen our understanding of the locations that could benefit most—and of the technologies best suited to those locations. One purpose of this study of irrigation in 24 countries, undertaken as part of the Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, is to identify agricultural areas where irrigation investments promise to yield significant returns. A related purpose is to estimate the amount and scope of investment needed to secure those returns.

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