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FAO livelihood mapping approach supports poor smallholders in Africa through investments in water


A concrete set of evidence-based recommendations and tools to prioritize and plan water interventions to support smallholder farmers was presented by FAO during the final project workshop “More effective and sustainable investments in water for poverty reduction in Africa” held at headquarters from 28 until 29 June.

The project used an approach that maps people’s livelihoods to better focus investment planning. The singularity of this FAO livelihood mapping approach is that it relies on the concept of livelihood zones as the basis to assess the suitability of water investment through participatory mapping and analysis. Livelihood zones are the areas where rural people share relatively homogenous living conditions determined by biophysical and socioeconomic aspects. They are used to identify the locations water investment can have a major impact in farmers’ livelihoods since water is a major constrain for rural development and food security.

“Since the beginning of the project in 2015 we adopted a consultative and participatory approach, from the needs assessment to the validation phase, involving all national and local actors engaged in agricultural water investments from Niger. This allowed us to tailor the investments according to the needs of our local communities in each livelihood zone,” said Chaibou Adamou, Director of Land Development and Water for the Ministry of Agriculture and project national focal point for Niger.

The workshop gathered the project partners from Mali, Niger, Madagascar and Rwanda, including high-level stakeholders from the Ministries of Agriculture and representatives from FAO, WFP, IFAD, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and other African countries, such as the Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon.

“The livelihood mapping developed by the project will be very useful in the framework of the strategy on small-scale irrigation implemented by the Government of Niger, whose objective is to harmonize all water-related interventions and to manage agricultural water in a more sustainable way,” Chaibou Adamou added.

Classical investment planning in agricultural water management have mostly focused on considering solely the availability of water and land resources and technologies, leading in many occasions to investments plans that did not correspond to the real needs of the local population and of poor small farmers in particular. FAO is therefore promoting approaches for investment planning that consider the biophysical suitability (climate, water and land) but also the socio-economic context, the diversity of livelihoods and the aspect of poverty.

The project was funded by IFAD and implemented by FAO in collaboration with IWMI. It aimed to improve investments in water to support the livelihood of smallholders to enhance food security and reduce poverty in rural areas of Africa.

For more information on the project and to download the national investment briefs, visit the project website.

Watch the video interviews of partners presenting the benefits of the approach and how the project results will be used in their country.