The African Water Facility supports improved smallholder farmers resilience to climate change through irrigation upscaling

09/11/2016
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The African Water Facility (AWF) held a one-day event on November 9, 2016 to launch the Upscaling Smallholder Irrigation (USI) project, which aims to help develop smallholder irrigation in Zambia. The AWF €1.4-million grant to finance a set of studies facilitating the upscaling of the USI project will contribute to better livelihood conditions, job creation and climate change resilience of smallholder farmers in the country.

Climate Change Challenges Smallholder Farming. The Zambian smallholder farming community is highly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming and climate change. This situation poses significant challenges towards attaining water security, sustaining crop productivity, maintaining economic growth and improving livelihoods. Rain-fed subsistence agriculture, widely practised in Zambia, is increasingly under pressure from erratic rainfall patterns, and has failed to significantly raise crop productivity, or to lessen the impact of seasonal cycles of hunger and food insecurity. Agricultural production in Zambia is dominated by small-scale farmers, even though the country has a relatively strong commercial sector in comparison to other countries in the region. An estimated 600,000 smallholder farmers produce most of the country’s cassava, cotton, millet and sorghum, as well as over 90% of its maize. Yet, current production systems in the majority of cases are highly vulnerable to fluctuations in rainfall.

AWF Response to Underdeveloped Irrigation. While Zambia has abundant arable land, only 14% of land suitable for agricultural production is being cultivated. At the same time, despite its great potential for irrigation in the country, less than 30% of the land suitable for irrigation has been developed. Importantly, most of the irrigated area in Zambia services large-scale commercial farming enterprises, while smallholder farmers are yet to benefit from significant investments in the sector. The AWF Upscaling Smallholder Irrigation project, with a total cost of €1.6 million (of which AWF contributed €1.4 million and the Government of Zambia €200,000), will include feasibility studies (technical, market, economic and financial analysis) available to the Government to make informed investment decisions to boost irrigation coverage of the country. “The project will identify and prepare potential irrigation investments in 25 sites leading to the opening of an additional 9,560 hectares of irrigated land for 4,800 smallholder households,” said Mohamed El Azizi, Director of AWF and the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Water and Sanitation Department.

AfDB drives the Feed Africa Strategy. The project is embedded in the newly launched Feed Africa Strategy developed as part of Africa Development Bank’s High 5 Initiative. The project will add value to the Agricultural Commodity Corridors to be identified and developed by Zambia as part of the Feed Africa Strategy. The project is aligned with Zambia’s Seventh National Development Plan.

Optimizing the project implementation for better results. On November 9, 2016, the main stakeholders of the USI project, including representatives from Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture, the project’s executive agency, and other selected Ministries, and from the AfDB, gathered in Lusaka for a launch workshop to ensure an efficient and smooth implementation of the project.