International coalition focuses on research and technology to help farmers in developing countries grow "more crop per drop"

FAO will soon be hosting a major international effort to coordinate research and technology transfer in one of the key fields for agricultural development - irrigation and drainage. A budget of over US$6 million is being negotiated with a group of support agencies for a three-year plan of action for the International Programme for Technology Research in Irrigation and Drainage (IPTRID).

A Brazilian farmer adjusts the irrigation pipe in his tomato field - irrigation more than doubles land productivity

Irrigation more than doubles land productivity. Only 16 percent of the world's croplands are irrigated, yet they produce 36 percent of the global harvest. Irrigation in developing countries gives particularly good returns, and can boost production by up to 400 percent. But irrigation can have unwanted side-effects. Nearly one-third of the world's irrigated lands have had their fertility sapped by the consequences of badly managed irrigation - water-logging and salinity.

Now irrigated agriculture faces another problem - the availability of fresh water is decreasing around the world. In some areas, water scarcity is already a major problem and a serious limit to agricultural development. Other sectors, such as the municipal and the industrial, also have rising and pressing needs for water supplies. Farmers are under pressure to grow more "crop per drop". To do this, they need more efficient and appropriate irrigation technologies.

In order to support developing countries in their search for more productive irrigation techniques, IPTRID is refocusing its efforts toward synthesis and dissemination of knowledge and capacity building to improve the application of research results "on the ground".

"Irrigation and drainage go hand in hand," said Arumugam Kandiah (IPTRID Program Manager ). "Efficient drainage is what prevents the damaging side-effects of badly managed irrigation schemes - water-logged land, salinization of soils and rising water tables."

IPTRID - an international coalition of institutions and donors - was founded in 1991 and originally hosted by the World Bank. As part of its reorganization, the programme is now moving to FAO, a more specialized organization with a wealth of expertise in irrigation. IPTRID's three-year action plan has four priority areas: knowledge synthesis, national research and development, national capacity building, and knowledge dissemination through networks.

In this last area, ten existing country networks will be strengthened and 12 new country networks will be set up. In irrigation, as in many other fields, networking is increasingly being used to transcend geographical boundaries and make knowledge available to all who need it.

IPTRID is a partnership between international research institutions, multi- and bilateral donors and six major international institutions - Global Water Partnership (GWP), FAO, The World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, International Water Management Institute (IWMI ), and the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID). Information about the programme can be found on the IPTRID website or on the Maintenance Notice Board.

25 June 1998

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