Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Chapter 2

Extending the area under sustainable Land Management and
reliable Water Control Systems

2.1. Introduction

Agricultural growth is more important for Africa than for any other continent. About 70 percent of people in Africa and roughly 80 percent of the continent's poor live in rural areas. These people depend on agriculture and non-farm rural enterprises for their livelihoods, and increasingly are unable to meet their basic food needs as population pressure on land grows, and land and water resources become scarce or degrade and agricultural productivity stagnates.

Land and water are the primary natural resources necessary for agriculture, food production and rural development in most countries. If used in proper association with suitable technologies and related factors such as labour, investment, land and water have the capacity to enable global agricultural production to continue outpacing growing demand despite declining availability of per capita land and water resources. For this trend to take root in Africa and to continue elsewhere, increased output must come mainly from intensified production, as new land for expansion is very limited in the world.

Building up soil fertility and the moisture holding capacity of agricultural soils, and rapidly increasing the area equipped with irrigation, especially small-scale water control, will not only provide farmers with opportunities to raise output on a sustainable basis but will also contribute to the reliability of food supplies. It may be noted that for Africa the percentage of arable land that is irrigated is 7 percent (barely 3.7 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa), the corresponding percentages for South America, East and south-east Asia and South Asia being 10 percent, 29 percent and 41 percent respectively. Furthermore, in Africa 16 percent of all soils are classified as having low nutrient reserves while in Asia the equivalent figure is only 4 percent. Moreover, fertiliser productivity (expressed in terms of maize yield response) in Africa is estimated at some 36 percent lower than in Asia and 92 percent lower than in developed countries.

FAO estimates show that between 1995/7 and 2030 about 75 percent of the projected growth in crop production in Sub-Saharan Africa will come from intensification in the form of yield increases (62 percent) and higher cropping intensities (13 percent), with the remaining 25 percent coming from arable land expansion. The share due to intensification will exceed 90 percent in land-scarce countries of Near East/North Africa. Intensified production occurs mostly on land already under cultivation17.

In spite of the inherent fragility of Africa's soils, the continent's climatic variability, and the uneven distribution and availability of both surface and subsurface water resources, there is substantial untapped potential for the development of the continent's water and land resources for increasing agricultural production. FAO estimates that the current area under managed water and land development totals some 12.6 million ha18, equivalent to only some 8 percent of the total arable land. Substantial public and private investments in developing and improving the management of these land and water resources will be essential to enable African countries reach the levels of agricultural production required to meet the targets for poverty alleviation, food production and economic recovery by 2015. FAO also estimates that between 1995/97 and 2030, about 75 percent of the projected growth in crop production in Sub-Saharan Africa will come from intensification in the form of yield increases (62 percent) and higher cropping intensities (13 percent), with the remaining 25 percent coming from arable land expansion.

2.2. Husbandry of Soil Resources

About 874 million hectares of Africa's land is considered suitable for agricultural production. Of this, about 83 percent have serious soil fertility or other limitations and will need costly improvements and amendments to achieve high and sustained productivity. Nutrient depletion is common in Africa and represents a significant loss of natural capital valued at an estimated US$1 to 3 billion per year. If most of the nearly 70 million smallholder families in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) fail within the next decade to adopt sustainable integrated soil fertility and land and water management practices on their farms, they will seriously jeopardise their long-term food security, productivity and incomes while environmental degradation will accelerate. Africa needs to address low farm productivity through integrated approaches combining increased use of organic matter, mineral fertilisers, hybrid seeds, irrigation or mechanisation (including reduced tillage systems) rather than each in isolation.

Degradation of soils and other natural resources is a big challenge for Africa. Indeed, IFAD reports for Western and Central Africa19 indicate that land degradation from extensive agriculture, deforestation and overgrazing has reached alarming levels and that about 50 percent of the farmland suffers soil erosion and up to 80 percent of rangelands are degraded in some way due to use beyond carrying capacity. As good resources diminish and land itself fails to satisfy all needs, land conflicts between herders and sedentary farmers are more frequent.

Protecting and improving the soil also makes good business sense. Research in one country has shown that on relatively good soils initial nutrient recovery was only about 30 percent, but after 4 to 7 years of soil improvement, nutrient use efficiency increased two to three times. Without soil improvement, in fact, the capture of nutrients is only about 35 percent for nitrogen and 15 percent for phosphorus, which is approximately half of rates typical elsewhere. This is particularly important in Africa where roughly twice as many nutrients are said to be lost compared to other regions, so that the majority of available nutrients are not utilised by crops. Apart from inefficient uptake of nutrients, the total input of fertilisers is very low: fertiliser use in Africa is only 21 kg (nutrients) per ha of harvested land per year, and is even lower in Africa south of the Sahara at 9 kg per ha of arable land. The corresponding figures are 100 kg/ha for South Asia, 135 kg/ha for east and Southeast Asia, 73 kg/ha for Latin America and 206 kg/ha for the industrial countries.

2.3. Water Control and Management

World-wide, the application of water and its managed use has been an essential factor in raising productivity of agriculture and ensuring predictability in outputs. Water is essential to bring forth the potential of the land and to enable improved varieties of both plants and animals to make full use of other yield-enhancing production factors. Yet the percentage of arable land that is irrigated is barely 3.7 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa, a figure that rises to 7 percent in Africa as a whole given that 40 percent of the total irrigated area is in North Africa. These are the lowest percentages in the developing world: the corresponding percentages are 10, 29 and 41 for South America, East and Southeast Asia and South Asia respectively. In Africa as a whole, in the absence of deliberate steps to accelerate progress, the amount of irrigated land is expected to grow at under 1 percent over the period from 1995/97 to 2030 at which time the amount of irrigated land would be barely 20 percent of potential in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Within the context of NEPAD, strategic public and related private investment in water management and land improvement will be essential for the intensification of agricultural production and for meeting targets for poverty alleviation, food production and economic recovery by 2015. This document sets out best estimates of the potential investment in irrigation to increase irrigated land in Africa from 12.6 million ha at present to some 20 million in 2015. Due to evident diversities both among and within the countries considered, these estimates should be viewed as orders of magnitude and are based on current new costs of building, rehabilitating, and operating and maintaining irrigation systems. The sources of funding will very much depend upon the character of the irrigation and the respective institutional responsibilities.

The nature of Africa's climatic variability and the inherent fragility of its soils pose natural limits to the extent of intensified agricultural production. These limits have to be recognised and subsequent measures applied for mitigation through research and innovation. At the same time, institutional and policy, and economic frameworks will be important factors in determining the extent to which the full investment potential cited here can be realised in practice. Africa's long experience with shared river basins and the role of river basin organisations will need to be put to good effect in negotiating both resource allocation and environmental externalities between riparian countries.

2.4. Assumptions and Investment Estimates

In order to assess potential and needs for land and water investments in Africa, the following steps have been used in this study:

The data sets and methodology were developed on a country basis, and aggregated at regional and continental levels.

2.4.1. Data and Information Sources

The methodology is based mainly on expert knowledge about the situation of land and water development in Africa and its prospect in the future. The main sources of information used in this study are:

2.4.2. Typologies of Investment Interventions

Three main categories of land and water improvement interventions were identified, allowing for the definition of reasonably well bounded targets for investment. They correspond to the main types of interventions already taking place in Africa, for which models and unit costs are available. They are:

For the first category, investments in land improvement are necessary to make the best use of the proposed investments. A land improvement component was therefore added to the overall proposed investment computations. Typically, this component would include tools and equipment, one-time soil fertility improvement, sub-soiling to break compaction, together with capacity building and training in agricultural practices.

The apportionment of public and private finance sources will depend upon the institutional responsibilities in each country and will be related to the various styles of irrigation and agricultural production systems.

2.4.3. Assessing Unit Investment Costs

Unit investment costs were based on information obtained from AQUASTAT in 1995, adjusted to take into account unit costs used in recent agriculture investment projects provided by the Investment Centre (TCI). In view of the large discrepancy between regions in terms of unit costs, Africa is presented under nine regional economic organizations. The results are presented in Table 6.

Irrigated areas in Africa are distributed very unevenly, with North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt) representing more that 40 percent of the total. They are far lower than in the developing countries in Asia, where almost a quarter of all cultivable area and 40 percent of all cultivated land are irrigated.

In Africa there is still significant potential for irrigation development on the basis of the land and water resource alone, but regional disparities are wide within the continent. It is estimated that seven countries (Angola, Sudan, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Nigeria) account for an irrigation potential of more than 30 million ha which is about 60 percent of all irrigation potential of Africa, while at the other end of the list, 18 countries share only 5 percent of all potential.

Investment in irrigation development in Africa lags behind other developing regions of the world (Table 7). Africa has some 12.2 million ha irrigated compared to about 18.4 million ha for Latin America and 157.6 million ha for Asia-Pacific. These numbers represent about 10 percent, 14 percent and 40 percent respectively of the cultivated area and 2 percent, 5 percent and 24 percent respectively of potentially cultivable land. Five year linear extrapolations were used to obtain regional data on irrigated areas from FAOSTAT series 1961-1999 for the computation of net irrigation increase by decade in the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's. Based on an average lifetime of 30 years, reduced for the first two decades because of investment levels in the 50's and 60's, the irrigated area rehabilitated every decade was assumed to increase from 20 percent to 33 percent of the area irrigated at the beginning of the period.

2.4.4. Describing the Current Situation

Reliable information on water management in agriculture is available from the 1995 AQUASTAT survey. Typically, it refers to the situation between 1990 and 1994. FAOSTAT data on irrigation are available yearly, by country, until 1999. In addition, country based information is also available from AT2015/30 for which the base year is 1998. This information is further enhanced by a comprehensive basin-wide compilation of resources and potential.

In this study, it was decided to use 1998 as a base year, and 2015 as target year, thus making the most productive use of the information available in AT2015/30. For 1998, data on irrigation were obtained from AT2015/30 (complementing them, for a few countries not covered by AT2015/30, with FAOSTAT figures). Breakdown by type of water control were obtained from the 1996 study (which used 1992 as base year), scaling up to fit the AT2015/30 irrigation data. Country data on arable land were obtained from the FAOSTAT database.

2.4.5. Assessing a Possible Target for 2015

AT2015/30 gives an estimate of the likely situation in 2015 that can be considered as the situation under a scenario of "business as usual", i.e. without specific intervention in land and water development. The projections of AT2015/30 gives an increase in irrigation of little less than 2 million ha, going from 12.6 million ha to 14.4 million ha (large and small scale irrigation). In such a situation, irrigation would represent a slightly lower share of arable land than in 1998 (7 percent compared to the current 8 percent).

Country data on arable land in 2015 were obtained by linear regression, comparing AT2015/30 figures for base year 1998 and 2015 with figures on arable land by FAOSTAT for 1998. Projected figures on rural population for 2015 were obtained from FAOSTAT (UN Population Division).

Possible increase in land and water management between 1998 and 2015 were based mainly on the 1996 study. It takes into account the countries' potential in terms of land and water development, and, to a certain extent, the demand, expressed in terms of national water resources development plans, from AQUASTAT. Four indicators were used to check if the proposed figures were reasonable: the total area to be developed, the share of arable land having received some kind of land and water control investment by 2015, the water managed area by rural family in 2015, the annual growth rate in large and small scale irrigation between 1998 and 2015. Proposed figures from the 1996 study were adjusted to obtain a fair sample of these indicators for each country. When specific information was available for a given country, it was taken into account in the computation of the country figures.

2.4.6. General Assumptions in the Calculations

In deriving the potential investment figures the following key assumptions have been made:

2.5. Towards a Common Strategy for Investment

The specific strategy adopted will naturally vary depending on the country concerned. Nevertheless, the majority of the countries to be covered fall within the Least Developed Country (LDC) category, and as such lack both the public and private resources to launch the investment projects and programmes necessary for expanded and improved water control and crop irrigation on the required scale. In these circumstances, the most common strategy adopted would have three main elements, viz. in the paragraphs that follow.

First is the identification and preparation of investments to support small-scale irrigation, and where feasible the rehabilitation of existing large schemes for external public funding by regional and international multilateral financing institutions, as well as interested bilateral donors. Where appropriate, these external resources would be accompanied by complementary measures on the government's part to enhance the economic, policy and institutional framework and ensure the sustainability of such investment. Besides farmers' own resources, and such counterpart funds as may be available, this would be the main national public contribution.

Linked to, and in sequence with the above public investments in water control infrastructure, accompanied by appropriate policy reform, substantial flows of national private investment would be encouraged to underwrite necessary supporting services such as guaranteeing availability of seeds, fertilisers and other input supplies, storage, marketing and credit, and transport. Overseas direct private investments would be encouraged to take advantage of specific commercial opportunities, in particular for agricultural export crops.

Lastly, new large-scale investment schemes would only be considered on the basis of a full examination of past experience, careful assessment of economic and financial sustainability, and comparison to alternative opportunities which may offer lower per unit investment costs. While such investment cannot be excluded in specific favourable circumstances, initial priority in most cases would be on relatively low cost small-scale irrigation development, and the rehabilitation of selected existing large-scale schemes.

Underpinning all the investment in irrigation and water management has to be better care for soils in order to ensure sustained fertility. Initiatives underway are promoting a move beyond the original Soil Fertility Initiative concept towards "better land husbandry". This approach recognises in the first place that there are no wholesale prescriptions and that technical solutions to improved soil management are location- and farm-specific. It also involves better recognition of the interdependence of the "organic", "mineral" and "physical" components in implementing better land husbandry. Under the new approach, mineral fertilisers and organic matter are treated as complements rather than substitutes.

The introduction of sound technologies for enhanced land management cannot, however, represent a stand-alone area of operations. Resource degradation and (apparent) mismanagement are themselves aspects of rural economic systems and thus shaped in part by issues of market access and competitiveness - even in the most marginal areas. Population pressure is often identified as the cause of resource degradation, but there is no single inevitable agricultural or environmental outcome to population pressure. In areas with poor market access, it can lead rapidly to resource mining. Where there are good market connections and access to a profitable crop, precisely the same population pressure can lead to intensification involving major investments in resource management and improvement. This approach will embrace a whole-system approach, tackling conservation within the whole structure of the rural political economy - and the opportunities of poor people to effectively manage resources to improve their livelihoods.

2.6. Estimated Potential for Investment

The order of magnitude for the investment required to increase the amount of arable land in Africa under improved land and water management from 8 percent (at a 1998 baseline) to 15 percent by 2015 is approximately US$36.9 billion, comprising:

These estimates will need to be systematically confirmed on a country-by-country basis and within the framework of shared river basins where international basin organisations are responsible for negotiating allocations for agricultural use. A breakdown of areas and associated investment estimates by Regional Economic Organisation is shown in Table 8. No totals for Africa should be derived from the Regional Economic Organisations' totals since country membership overlaps, with some countries belonging to two or three organisations, in particular SADC and COMESA; and ECOWAS and UEMOA which have a very high multiple country membership. Indicative country details are available but to arrive at proposals for distribution of efforts between small and large-scale irrigation as well as between rehabilitation and new investment will require prior consultation and updated assessments on the ground.

In addition, operation and maintenance requirements20 for all categories of land and water improvement are estimated to reach annually, by the year 2015, some US$3.8 billion equivalent to an overall expenditure throughout the period of some US$32 billion. These maintenance estimates are based on operational schemes and vary considerably per country.

Future investments in irrigation will be mainly for rehabilitation, upgrading and expansion. Such incremental investment will benefit from the large amount of sunk costs in existing schemes thereby enabling higher rates of return. A clear indication that irrigation yields adequate returns is the amount of private investment it attracts worldwide. Irrigation reduces the risk of crop losses from uncertain rainfall, enables production in areas or at times without rainfall, and provides water to enable farmers to increase output per hectare. There are strong synergies between irrigation and other principal sources of agricultural growth such as fertiliser, improved plant varieties, better husbandry, and upgraded infrastructure and better integration into markets. These encourage farmers to invest in land improvements and in other inputs.

Estimates of annual expenditures for investments and maintenance of land and water improvement are shown in Table 9. Short-term investment requirements (2002-2005) are estimated at US$9.9 billion, the medium term investment requirements (2006-2010) at US$20.1 billion and the long-term requirements (2011-2015) at US$6.8 billion.

Estimates of likely projections for the distribution of public: private financing within this overall envelope must remain, at this stage, highly conjectural and will require specific country conditions to be taken into account. Distinction is made by type of investment and ODA is assumed to be 40 percent of the public sector investment in Low Income Food Deficit Countries but zero in the more developed poor countries. Some considerable data gathering and critical thinking is required to apply this approach; an indicative outcome of applying it is presented in Appendix Table 5.

2.7. Moving Forward

Clearly these types of water management and land improvement need to be placed within specific agro-ecological, hydrological and socio-economic settings. Well-judged investment can permit strategic consolidation, diversification and intensification of agricultural production to respond to changing market conditions. The proper identification of the most promising investment approaches and target areas will be of paramount importance, followed by investment preparation that meets the requirements of multilateral and bilateral funding sources. This will require a flexible, opportunistic approach with the governments concerned, with full national and local involvement and commitment. NEPAD might initially seek support from partners, including FAO, in four ways:

17 FAO. 2000. Agriculture Towards 2015/30. Technical Interim Report. Rome.

18 FAO. Agriculture Towards 2015/30 estimates.

19 IFAD Strategy for rural poverty reduction in Western and Central Africa.

20 Including allowances for both institutional strengthening and the recurrent costs of the organisations responsible for operation and maintenance.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page