More water for African farms

Nothing can grow without the right amount of water, at the right time - and farmers can't necessarily rely on rain for the moisture their crops need. EU-funded researchers have shown that water harvesting techniques could help to boost food security, stimulate growth and foster resilience in African dryland areas.

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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


 

Published: 17 June 2015  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Agriculture & foodAgriculture
International cooperation
Success storiesEnvironment
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Burkina Faso  |  Ethiopia  |  Netherlands  |  Tunisia  |  United Kingdom  |  Zambia
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More water for African farms

Photo of dam in Ethiopia
© Berhane Grum Woldegiorgis

Update: 23 November 2017

Water harvesting involves capturing and storing run-off for productive use. The Wahara project focused on its potential in dry parts of Africa where agriculture depends entirely on rainfall, without access to irrigation. Such dryland areas account for some two thirds of the continent’s surface and produce most of its food.

“We brought together experiences in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Tunisia and Zambia, which allowed us to exchange information and to draw more general lessons that are conducive to further adoption of water harvesting in Africa,” says project coordinator Rudi Hessel of Stichting Wageningen Research, in the Netherlands.

“The main advantage is that water harvesting improves the water availability over time. And our results showed that it works,” he adds. “Significant increases in yield were obtained, and crop failure under drought conditions was prevented.”

Widespread adoption of water harvesting techniques would therefore contribute to water security in dryland areas, the Wahara researchers argue. Given the likely implications of climate change, the importance of sheltering the populations of such regions from the effects of drought is growing.

Hessel sees the project’s participatory approach as one of its main achievements. “Water harvesting techniques were selected in collaboration with stakeholders,” he reports.

The introduction of such techniques can only be successful if the proposed solutions make economic sense to the farmers, the Wahara team notes. Other preconditions for success identified by the project, which ended in February 2016, include policy support, local ownership, and access to adequate finance.

“What works is putting the farmers at the centre of it all, respecting their agency, treating them as clients rather than beneficiaries,” the partners stress. Farmer-to-farmer learning systems linked with formal education and research systems could help to disseminate water harvesting technologies, the team concludes.

Project details

  • Project acronym:WAHARA
  • Participants:Netherlands (Coordinator), UK, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Zambia
  • Project Reference N° 265570
  • Total cost: €2 619 115,27
  • EU contribution: €1 999 312,33
  • Duration:March 2011 - February 2016

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