Irrigation for sustainable agriculture in developing countries
Irrigated agriculture enables producers in areas with unreliable rainfall to manage water and work and cultivate more productively. It therefore contributes to food security, helps reduce poverty and ultimately contributes to social and economic development at the local and regional levels.
However, there are a number of significant challenges that need to be addressed for irrigated agriculture to succeed. These challenges relate to:
- The socio-economic context of production: often characterised by flawed policies on access to land, water and credit, a poorly developed private sector, lack of services for irrigators, and value chains with different structures.
- Water infrastructures: insufficient funding to establish and maintain infrastructures (which require substantial investment), problems with land tenure (rules for allocating parcels, fragmented holdings), and water users’ associations with little technical or institutional knowledge.
- Irrigated agricultural activities: increasing land fragmentation has reduced plot sizes, leaving many producers without enough land to make a living.
- Environment: increasingly fragile water catchment areas (due to deforestation and erosion), excessive water extraction, soil salinisation, competition over water for rural irrigation and urban consumption, etc.
As irrigated production systems become more intensive, it is also important to anticipate the potential negative effects of poor pesticide management and other practices on human health and the environment.