Some agricultural project analysts advocate that "small-scale" perimeters are more cost effective and successful than large ones. Patterson argues that the small scale perimeter if potentially conducive to development because of their smallness and their flexibility in terms of innovations. Morever a recent survey irrigation in the Sahelian countries by Stryker, Gotsch, McIntire and Roche, suggests that labor intensive schemes generally have better distributional characteristics than those that are more capital intensive. These advantages attributed to the small schemes have even biased some donors towards funding small scale perimeters. Efforts to expand rice production and therefore to increase self-sufficiency can be analyzed in terms of their contributions to the three fundamental economic objectives: increased national incomes, more even income distribution, and increased food self-sufficiency. In the case of Mauritania, the main objective is to increase food self-sufficiency. As a Resources Assessment Manpower report (RAMS) stated, after 10 years of drought, loss of livestock and an increasing rate of food deficit, expanding irrigation is no longer an alternative, but an obligation. This study will 1) compare rice production costs in the large and small scale perimeters in the upstream zone of the Fleuve in Mauritania, 2) highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the large and small scale perimeters, and 3) draw some policy recommendations for future land development. While the Mauritanian government has used irrigation since 1973 to increase food security, the cost has been substantial. Related issues that will be explored relate to Mauritania's comparative advantage in rice production. Is locally produced rice competitive with the imported rice? For example, rice produced and consumed in the same zone may be competitive with imported rice delivered to this zone. Finally, this study analyzes rice policies used by the Mauritanian government to increase real rural incomes. In particular, are existing incentives adequate to motivate farmers to continue to produce under the current rice policies? Incentives to guide and reward farmers are critical component as once there are investment opportunities and efficient incentives, farmers will turn sand into gold.


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