On World Water Day, FAO calls for irrigation for small farmers

Myanmar: worker watering seedlings in a nursery
FAO/19782/G. Bizzarri

Tunisia: waste water being purified
FAO/13998/J. Isaac
Brazil: syphon irrigation
FAO/15149/A. Conti

Irrigated agriculture produces 40 percent of the world's food today, according to FAO estimates, and it will have to produce about 60 percent of the extra food required to feed a world population of around 8 billion by 2025.

According to a report published by FAO on the occasion of World Water Day, 22 March, "The bulk of improvements in food supply from irrigation is expected to come from changes in a sector still dominated by small producers...small-scale irrigators are, and will continue to be, a vital part of future world food security."

The report "Poverty reduction and irrigated agriculture" is produced by the International Programme for Technology and Research in Irrigation and Drainage (IPTRID), which is managed by FAO's Land and Water Development Division. (Click here to download the report in pdf.)

The message is that low-cost, locally produced irrigation technology, like pumps, hose and drip systems, have two major benefits for the rural poor and the world as a whole: they help farmers produce more food - or "grow more crop per drop" - and they create jobs and income opportunities. In Bangladesh, for example, since 1985 groundwater irrigation has increased employment in agriculture by around 250 percent.

FAO has stressed that irrigation technology for small farmers should be affordable and easy to use and that women and men should have equal access to irrigation. In Gambia, Tanzania and Kenya, women's rights to hold irrigated land and control the distribution of products, have improved family nutrition and the income of female-headed households significantly.

Burkina Faso: irrigating a bean field
FAO/12709/J. Van Acker
Philippines: farmer using a levelling board to distribute water on the fields
FAO/18227/J. Villamora
Tanzania: clearing weeds from an irrigation canal
FAO/17685/A. Conti

22 March 1999


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