Considerable progress has been made across Africa to
increase agricultural productivity, reduce poverty, create new
employment opportunities, and improve livelihoods. Yet population
growth, demographic change, urbanization, and climate
change mean that pressure on agricultural systems to
make more food available and accessible is growing rapidly.
In many countries across the continent, rainfall is highly variable
or insufficient. Yet food production continues to be almost
exclusively rain-fed. Where there is only one growing season,
farmers are thus more vulnerable to erratic rainfall patterns and
droughts, resulting in low yields and incomes. Currently, only
6 percent of arable land in Africa is irrigated1 and on average the
area equipped for irrigation grew by just 1.5 percent between
1990 and 2015.2 Nevertheless, the potential to increase irrigation
is high, in particular in countries south of the Sahara (SSA).3
Expanding countries’ irrigation potential can improve agricultural
productivity on existing land and extend growing
seasons throughout the year, which would reduce poverty,
food insecurity, and import dependency across the continent.
However, expanding and upgrading irrigation systems
will require individual and collective action by governments,
the private sector, and communities in rural and urban areas.

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