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ERRATIC WEATHER CAUSING RISE IN IRRIGATION IN AFRICA

09/12/2016

Sub-Saharan Africa is seeing a surge of interest in irrigation among small-scale farmers as climate change brings more erratic weather and as rising populations in countries from Nigeria to Kenya mean growing demand for a reliable harvest, agriculture and water experts say. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) estimates that more than a million hectares of small farms are now irrigated in the region. In Tanzania, the area of small farms with access to irrigation has risen from just 33,500 hectares in 2010 to about 150,000 today, institute figures show. But up to 29 million hectares in the East African nation alone potentially could be irrigated, said Ruth Meinzen-Dick, an IFPRI researcher. Boosts in irrigation could help protect the region’s food security in the face of more extreme weather conditions driven by climate change, and be an engine of development, she and other experts said at the recent World Water Week gathering in Stockholm. But expanding access to irrigation to a much higher number of farmers will require a range of other changes, from cuts to taxes on imported irrigation equipment to better training of farmers – particularly women – in the latest irrigation techniques. In addition, most sub-Saharan African countries have not yet mapped their most easily accessible groundwater resources, which makes it hard for small farmers to know what water is available. Revolving funds – in which members join savings clubs and pool money to make loans to each other – and micro-credit loans also will be key to help small farmers afford irrigation equipment, the experts said. To read the full article, see http://uk.reuters.com/article/us-africa-irrigation-farming-idUKKCN11F2DT.