More effective and sustainable investments in water for poverty reduction

Innovative approach makes the most out of water investments for poor smallholders in Africa


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 FAO headquarters from 28 -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 base to assess the suitability of water investment for people’s livelihoods 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 where water is a major constrain for rural development and food security and where water investment can have a major impact in farmers’ livelihoods.


“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 the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), FAO, but also representatives from the World Food Programme (WFP) 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,” he added.


Classical investment planning in agricultural water management have mostly focused on considering uniquely the availability of water and land resources, and technologies, leading in many occasions to investments plans that did not respond to the real needs and capacities of the local population, and in particular of poor small farmers.  FAO together with other partners such as IFAD or IWMI, is promoting approaches for investment planning that considers the biophysical suitability (climate, water and land) but also the socio-economic context and the diversity of livelihoods, including poverty aspects.


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.


Download the national investment briefs for MaliMadagascar, Niger and Rwanda.