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Press Release 98/46  


Rome, 16 July -- The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today announced a major international initiative to improve irrigation and drainage in developing countries. A budget of over US$ 6 million is being negotiated with the World Bank, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and other donors for a three-year plan of action.

"World population will jump from today 5.8 billion to 8.3 billion people by 2025. To meet this challenge we have to produce more food through the intensification of rain-fed and irrigated agriculture," said Programme Manager Arumugam Kandiah. "Irrigation more than doubles land productivity. Unfortunately, many irrigation systems are working poorly, due to bureaucratic interference, faulty management, lack of involvement of users and poor construction. In some cases up to 60 percent of the water diverted for irrigation never reaches the crop. "

"In addition, in many regions water scarcity is already a major problem and seriously limits agricultural production. Water is becoming increasingly limited and costly, and farmers are under pressure to grow 'more crop per drop'. To do this, they need to know more about appropriate, efficient and sustainable irrigation technology."

Irrigation technology in developing countries has not changed much during the past decades and is seriously lagging behind the agricultural technology it serves, according to FAO. Annual global expenditure in irrigation research is no more than about US$ 300 million compared to about US$ 8 billion in agriculture as a whole.

"Through the International Programme for Technology Research in Irrigation and Drainage (IPTRID) we want to support farmers in finding the most cost-effective, user-friendly and socially-acceptable irrigation and drainage technology. The programme will not finance irrigation projects, but will promote technology transfer and make applied research information on irrigation drainage available to farmers and decision-makers."

"We will also assist in developing national irrigation research and development strategies. Partners will be the ministries of water and agriculture, non-governmental organizations, universities and the private sector," Kandiah added.

"The management of the programme will be small and decentralized," Kandiah said. "The five-person Secretariat based in Rome will work through national committees and research institutions."

The IPTRID was founded in 1991 and originally run by the World Bank. The programme assisted in financing of some 15 projects valued at about US$ 50 million. Information was provided through ten country networks with more than 5,000 participants.

Dissemination of knowledge and capacity building will play a bigger role in future. The World Bank therefore decided to move IPTRID to FAO, a more specialized organization with a wealth of expertise in irrigation. The World Bank will remain a co-host of the programme along with UNDP, the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage and the International Water Management Institute. Among the major national sponsors are the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands.


For further information please contact:

Erwin Northoff
Media Officer, FAO/Rome
Tel. +39-06 5705-3105


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