Technical and institutional attributes constraining the performance of small-scale irrigation in Ethiopia
Water Resources and Rural Development
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Nairobi, Kenya
Small-scale irrigation is playing an important role in adapting to climate change, achieving food security, and improving household incomes. The Ethiopian Government considers irrigated agriculture as a primary engine of economic growth and plans to increase the current level of irrigation infrastructure three-fold by the end of 2015. However, there has been concern regarding the performance and management of existing small-scale irrigation. Based on the assessment of 52 small-scale irrigation schemes, and three case study sites, we describe the challenges and interventions required to improve irrigation water management in Ethiopia. Though most schemes are operational, many do not operate at full capacity, due to design failures, excessive siltation, poor agronomic and water management practices, and weak local institutions. In addition to low returns, there is competition for irrigation water between upstream and downstream users, vegetable growers and cereal growers, and between farmers with large irrigable plots and those with small plots. Despite these challenges, our field assessment revealed that small scale irrigation increases crop yields, improves crop diversification, and reduces the risk of crop failure. We emphasize in this paper the need for incentives to improve productivity and minimize conflicts, while enhancing innovation capacity, developing scheme-specific intensification strategies, and promoting collective action. We also describe how benefits from water investments could be substantially increased by overcoming design constraints, strengthening water user associations, and protecting catchments. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
agricultural application; crop production; incentive; infrastructural development; irrigation system; performance assessment; state role; water management; Ethiopia