Irrigated agriculture

Irrigated agriculture plays a key role in food and nutritional security, and is a vital economic activity for many rural producers. Iram interventions aim to develop irrigated agriculture that is both productive and sustainable, through capacity building for stakeholders and support for sustainable natural resource management, market chain development and the formulation of relevant agricultural policies.

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.

Iram’s approach

Iram provides advice and support for various activities to promote and develop sustainable irrigated agriculture:

  • Capacity building for different actors:
    • producer organisations: managing water infrastructures and value chains in ways that take account of existing practices and empower actors;
    • intermediaries between the State and producers (mechanisms to deliver services for irrigators);
    • public contracting authorities (technical ministries, development companies, local authorities).
  • Sustainable natural resource management: supporting consultative bodies so that different resource users can develop and implement sustainable solutions for managing water, land, catchment basins, etc.
  • Developing marketing chains: training on economic analysis, setting up information systems and supporting transactions between actors across each value chain.
  • Formulating agricultural policies conducive to the development of irrigated production systems.