The paper develops indicators to look at
the performance of the irrigation sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, where demand
for food is high and irrigation has a proven potential to boost levels
of agricultural productivity. By looking at six indicator categories-institutional
framework, water resource use, irrigation area, irrigation technology,
agricultural productivity, and poverty and food security-we assess the
potential for improving performance in the agricultural food security sector
through increasing irrigation sector investments. The indicators on water
resource use indicate ample room for further development of the resource.
The share of cultivated area equipped for irrigation in Africa is about
a third of the world average and just one-sixth of the value for Asia.
The low coverage of irrigation technology and the slow rate of growth in
coverage clearly represent a lost opportunity for Africa and a tremendous
potential for future investment and policy effort. Finally, African countries
produce 38 percent of their crops (by value) from approximately 7 percent
of their cultivated land on which water is managed, which again suggests
that additional investment in irrigation would pay large benefits. The
disproportionate contribution to agricultural production of Africa's small
irrigated area suggests that returns on additional investment in irrigation
would be high, both in terms of greater food security for the continent
and greater production of export-quality agricultural goods.
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