After a rapid average economic growth of 10% each year between 2004 and 2014, Ethiopia has emerged as an engine of development in Africa.
And there are no signs that the ambitions for further growth are fading. This is clear from the government's plan to achieve the average income status – or gross national income of at least $ 1006 per capita – by 2025. A rapid increase in per capita income is expected in Ethiopia, which is currently US $ 783, according to the World Bank.
The growth of Ethiopia has been driven by at least two factors: the priority of agriculture as a key factor for the development and the rapid adoption of new technologies to boost the sector.
One third of Ethiopia's GDP is generated by agriculture and over 12 million families rely on small-scale farming for their livelihoods.
One of the drivers of growth in the agricultural sector has been the expansion of irrigation. The country has seen the fastest growth in irrigation of any African country. The irrigated area increased by almost 52% between 2002 and 2014.
This was achieved by investing in the sector and using technology to extend irrigation to farmers who traditionally relied on rains to irrigate their crops. This has increased productivity and income for farmers by helping them to prolong the growing season and become more coherent in their production.
Meanwhile, only 6% of arable land is currently irrigated throughout Africa. This means that there is enormous potential for expanding irrigation and unlocking economic growth.
These factors are highlighted by a new report from the Malabo Montpellier panel. The group brings together experts in agriculture, ecology, nutrition and food security to guide the political choices of African governments. The goal is to help the continent speed up progress towards food security and improving nutrition.
The latest report from the group analyzes progress and highlights the best practices in irrigation in six countries. These include Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Niger and South Africa. Other African countries can learn from the insights of the relationship.
Reasons for success
The report identified a number of common factors in countries where significant progress has been made to expand irrigation, including key policies and institutional innovations.
In the case of Ethiopia, one of the main reasons for its success is that agriculture and irrigation have been present in the Ethiopian political agenda since 1991. In addition, specialized institutions have been established with clear commitments. to maximize the benefits of water control and irrigation system.
Furthermore, the government has invested in the sector and intends to continue doing so. It has the goal of allocating US $ 15 billion for irrigation development by 2020.
The investment should generate a number of returns. These include:
- more efficient use of fertilizers,
- a reduction of the seasonal variability of productivity e
- yields from cultivated irrigated crops.
Another important area of development was data collection. This is an invaluable asset that allows for close monitoring and management of resources such as water, especially in times of drought.
In 2013, the Agricultural Processing Agency in Ethiopia began mapping over 32,400 square kilometers to identify water resources, in particular surface groundwater, with the potential for development of irrigation.
The final results of this mapping in 89 districts have revealed almost 3 billion cubic meters of water at a depth of less than 30 meters. This could allow the irrigation of about 100,000 hectares of land, for the benefit of 376,000 families.
Finally, Ethiopia exploited the value of a full range of irrigation technologies. These have varied small-scale interventions to large infrastructures.
A joint project between the Ethiopian Office of Agriculture, local extension officials and an NGO called Farm Africa, for example, has helped women and young people to adopt small-scale irrigation. This was part of an 'initiative to increase their incomes and improve their nutrition.
Overall, the project reached almost 6,400 women and landless people. The irrigation project has also benefited from 700 families of farmers.
What other countries can do
To have food and income security and to achieve wider development goals, countries must ensure that all levels of government are involved in planning and implementation. The private sector and the farming communities must also be involved in expanding irrigation.
The experience of Ethiopia and other countries leading to irrigation can help other African governments to develop country-specific strategies to make irrigation effective at scale. The benefits of doing so, such as improving productivity and income in the company and improving resilience and livelihood, are transformational.
The expansion in irrigated agriculture, coupled with reliable agricultural inputs and stable markets for the anticipated growth of agricultural products, has the potential to catapult Ethiopia into the forefront of African countries that have embraced the # 39; agriculture as the engine of economic growth.
How Africa can play its game on the management of water for agriculture