and IFAD have
recently produced a report where they argue about the existing
potentials for well-targeted, local interventions in water
that can contribute to the rapid improvement in the livelihoods
of the rural poor in SSA.
The same interventions that can help attaining the Millennium
Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.
There are important opportunities for new investments
in water but their success depend on the development of
new models of interventions, centered on enhancing the
diversity of livelihood conditions of rural populations.
There is no “one size fits all” approach for
improving livelihoods. Different contexts and needs require
different types of investments to guide the choice for
Sub-Saharan Africa can be divided in 13 major “livelihood
zones”. Each zone offers distinct opportunities for
livelihood sustenance and development, has different agro-ecological
conditions, and shows different angles for water-related
investments for poverty reduction.
A closer observation also shows the differences of rural
poor distribution across the livelihood zones, with high
prevalence of relative poverty in the highlands of Ethiopia,
the Lake Victoria basin, parts of Nigeria and in the semi-arid
and sub-humid areas.
The types of interventions required rarely involve large-scale
irrigation schemes, although there is a need to improve
those already existing, when these systems are used below
capacity and are poorly maintained. In all cases, clear
policies need to be put in place to allow equitable access
to the water by poor farmers, who also require favorable
market linkages and conditions.
The report’s main focus is on small-scale on-farm
improvements, structures that are easy to operate and maintain
locally and that target mainly female and male smallholders.
Such interventions will focus in particular on improving
water management in rainfed agriculture.
Investments in water infrastructure alone cannot suffice to improve agricultural productivity in SSA. Farmers need secure access to inputs including fertilizer, better seeds, and credit. They need to be better educated and informed on the use of inputs and the latest techniques.
Investments in water control need to be planned and implemented in
the much broader framework of agricultural and rural
development, where production, markets, finance and
infrastructure are conceived in an integrated way and are mutually
supporting. Furthermore, the policy and institutional framework has
to ensure fair and equitable access to water resources and effective
access to markets for agricultural products.
Climate change represents an additional challenge to rural people
in SSA, and a further reason for investment in water
control. In view of their limited adaptive capacity, smallholder
farmers, pastoralists and artisanal fishers in SSA are among the
most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. While projections
on possible changes in annual rainfall vary across Africa, these
populations will experience the negative effects of increased temperature
on yields, combined with a high vulnerability to extreme events.
For them, enhanced control of water will become critical in building
resilience to increased climate variability