Transforming smallholder agriculture in Africa through irrigation: an assessment of irrigation impact pathways in Ghana

Agriculture in Africa is dominated by smallholder farmers who mostly undertake rain-fed agriculture. Unfortunately, the current trends of unpredictable rainfall patterns is putting the livelihoods of these smallholder farmers under threat. To overcome this threat, governments across Africa relentlessly invest in water harvesting strategies for irrigation purposes. Thus, the provision of irrigation facilities in strategic locations across Africa is deemed an important component of the agricultural transformation agenda being pursued in the continent. This paper therefore examines the role of irrigation in transforming smallholder agriculture in Africa by assessing the different impact pathways of irrigation, using Ghana as the case. The paper employs mixed methods that provide the opportunity for triangulation and cross validation. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected using focus group discussions, key informant interviews and household survey questionnaires. The impacts of irrigation were analysed using propensity score matching (PSM) and narrations. The results indicate that irrigation has significant and positive impacts on farm output, income, employment, consumption, food security and non-farm businesses. The impacts of irrigation on health and environmental sustainability are mixed - the positive being the ability of irrigators to pay for improved healthcare for themselves and their families and the negatives include the outbreak of waterborne diseases associated with irrigation water. Construction of irrigation facilities causes destruction to the environment but improves provisioning ecosystem services. It is generally concluded that access to irrigation is associated with higher farm outputs, income levels, employment, consumption, food security, and engagement in non-farm business activities.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-23

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