March 28, 2008 — Agricultural growth in sub-Saharan Africa is vital to poverty reduction and to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals set by the international community.
Despite its importance, however, investments in agricultural water have seen a continuous decline since the late 1980s, with only a slight recovery in recent years.
In response to the decline, five international organizations (the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the International Water Management Institute) have joined forces on a new agricultural water strategy. The strategy was prepared for the New Partnership for Africa (NEPAD).
Agricultural water includes irrigation on large and small schemes and farms, drainage of irrigated and rain-fed areas, watershed restoration, recycled water use, rainwater harvesting, and all in-field water management practices.
The Initiative for Agricultural Water in Africa, or AgWA, looks at the effects of agricultural water management on poverty reduction, the reasons for its slow expansion and the ways in which increased investment in agricultural water management could make a sustainable contribution to poverty reduction and economic growth.
“ Strategic public and related private investment in water management will be essential for the intensification of agricultural production and for meeting targets for poverty alleviation, food production and economic recovery by 2015,” said Richard Mkandawire, agricultural advisor to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which has called for the implementation of land and water management in sub-Saharan Africa. “ Reliance on irregular and unreliable rainfall for agricultural production is a major constraint on crop productivity in the region.”
The five institutions met in Tunis, Tunisia, March 26-28 during the first annual African Water Week, organized by the African Development Bank in a special session on agriculture water use in Africa.
The initiative hopes to provide a platform to support agricultural water in the region and will bring together financing instruments including loans, grants and other multilateral and bilateral funding in order to aid governments in improving water management.