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Irrigation is viewed as a key factor in progress towards achieving food security in Africa. While nearly 40% of the world's agricultural production comes from irrigated land, the figure for sub-Saharan Africa is only 10%. For most countries of the region, including some poorly endowed with water, only a small part of the available water is withdrawn for use, owing to the state of underdevelopment of water management infrastructure.

Assessment of irrigation potential is of prime importance for planning of sustainable food production in the continent. Considerable information on irrigation potential exists in the African countries, but because of the large numbers of international rivers the regional dimension of the African water resources requires an approach ensuring consistency both within the country and among countries within each river basin.

The present study combines a review of existing information on irrigation potential by country with an approach using a geographic information system to assess land and water availability for irrigation on the basis of river basins. The ever-present environmental issues related to water management highlight some of the major challenges to irrigation development on the continent.

The results of this study and the methodology developed in the report should be useful to researchers and planners at national and regional levels for work aiming at sustainable water resources development in Africa.

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