Amid global concerns over rising food and fuel prices, changing diets and climate change, irrigated agriculture plays an important role in increasing food production in an uncertain and resource-constrained world. For many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly arid and semi-arid regions, irrigated agriculture is also a key part of strategies to boost economic growth and tackle rural poverty. However, scepticism remains in some quarters, given the disappointing economic returns of past irrigation investments, concerns over land and water grabs and a lack of sufficient evidence regarding what works, why and where, and who benefits.
FANRPAN working in partnership with researchers from the UK Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has published two working papers, which present the results of a study that looks at the policies and politics that have shaped irrigation practice and performance in Tanzania and Zimbabwe over the past 40–50 years. The working papers aim to understand the drivers of, and obstacles to, change with respect to improving the irrigation sector performance and to identifying opportunities for innovation. The reports also consider who has benefited and lost from public investments, and how these investments could better contribute to poverty reduction, economic growth and climate resilience. They argue that more attention must be paid to the history and politics of irrigation development if we are to understand the way policies and practices have evolved over time and what the outcomes have been. Our findings are aimed at policy-makers responsible for irrigation development in developing countries, and researchers focusing on improving irrigation performance and innovation.
This research was commissioned by FANRPAN as part of the project “Increasing Irrigation Water Productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through On-Farm Monitoring, Adaptive Management and Agricultural Innovation Platforms. The Australian government through the Australian International Food Security Research Centre of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) with additional contributions from participating organisations funds the project.
The working papers have also been produced as part of a series of papers to guide the long-term research agenda of the Pathways to Resilience in Semi-arid Economies (PRISE) project. The project is part of the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA), which is funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DfID) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada.