Investment in irrigation unlocks agricultural potential for small-scale farmers in Burundi
23 July 2021
The Global Water Partnership defines Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) as a process that promotes the development and management of water, land, and related resources to maximise the economic and social welfare of communities without compromising the sustainability of vital aquatic ecosystems and the services they provide.
Rapidly growing populations are placing increasing pressure on African ecosystems and infrastructure to keep up with growing food and water demand. Access to water remains a major challenge for smallholder farmers. Lack of both small- and large-scale infrastructure to augment water supply results in inadequate supply for household and irrigation use. Fragmented governance and uncoordinated resource planning nationally and regionally in shared river basins result in uneven distribution of water resources, worsening availability. Poor regulation and monitoring of water quality means that, when water is available, water resources are often polluted.
Climate change and climate variability further exacerbate existing water supply and quality constraints. In many RFS countries, increasing temperatures, decreasing annual rainfall and increasing evaporation rates are impacting the seasonal availability of water. Further, shifts in climate variability and increases in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events have resulted in recurrent droughts and severe water scarcity in some RFS countries.
Integrated water resource management (IWRM) and Sustainable Land and Water Management (SLWM) offer a holistic framework for addressing various different demands and pressures on water resources, across sectors and different scales of governance. Both frameworks offer a broader understanding of the relationship between water, land, communities, and the broader political and regulatory environment, both on a national and regional level.
The efficient, equitable and sustainable management of water resources is necessary for productive and sustainable food systems. By designing and implementing interventions that are reflective of IWRM and SLWM principles, the RFS programme aims to improve water access, both in terms of quality and quantity, for smallholder farmers in order to improve agricultural productivity. Central to this approach, is the development of appropriate catchment, sub-catchment, and micro-catchment strategies and management practices across the RFS programme.
IWRM and SLWM both encompass a wide variety of interventions, including expanding and improving the efficiency of irrigation, constructing dams and weirs, installing rainwater harvesting technologies, improving the water retention of soil, rehabilitating and protecting riverbanks, and disaster risk reduction interventions for flooding and droughts.
In Kenya, the RFS team is installing water pans to capture rainwater for irrigation and encouraging smallholder farmers to move production away from riverbanks where agricultural production has led to erosion and siltation of the Tana river. The RFS Niger project has been working to increase water availability for farmers by reducing erosion and siltation in water basins and constructing new small-scale water infrastructure (weirs and ponds). In Malawi, the RFS project has established five Catchment Management Committees and five Water Resource Units that will work with existing national and local institutions to undertake catchment area planning and management.
Explore the RFS Country Projects to see more examples of how RFS countries are implementing Integrated Water Resource Management activities.
Stories from the Field
Explore our stories from the field to learn more about how RFS country project teams are implementing activities related to the programmatic theme of Integrated Water Resource Management.
We have a growing library of reports, briefs, case studies, media, tools and guidelines. Explore all resources related to Integrated Water Resource Management to get greater insight into our programme activities.
This new FAO publication highlights the importance of sustainably managed agro-ecosystems and biodiversity in supporting longer-term adaptation and food security objectives, and illustrates good practices across ecosystems as showcased during the Ecosystem-based Adaptation in the agriculture sector webinar series.
The publication further emphasizes that ecosystem-based adaptation solutions should be based on participatory, inclusive and trans disciplinary approaches that promote locally appropriate strategies built on the nexus between scientific and traditional knowledge. Such solutions should also be strengthened through adaptive research, including deepening the understanding of the impacts of climate change and land use on ecosystems and their specific functions, as well as incentive and financial mechanisms that support adoption and uptake by food producers.
This study guide, published in 2003, is largely based on experiences from the Farm Level Applied Research Methods for Eastern and Southern Africa– (FARMESA–) funded farmer field schools in Mbeere, Kenya and was produced in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture. It is intended for small scale farmers and extension workers interested in improving their crop production by learning more about how to manage on-farm soil and water resources more efficiently.
The manual can either be used by farmer groups in a structured learning setting, such as farmer field schools, or by informal self-study groups.
The FAO Land and Water Division, together with the Africa Regional Centre of the International Institute for Rural Reconstructions (IIRR) and other development partners, prepared this guide to support various organisations in the region that identified the need for information materials to improve their field-level capacities in land and water management for smallholder farming.
In particular, this guide provides technical support to facilitators of farmer field schools, trainers, and project staff by presenting a collection of easily readable, discovery-based practical exercises and examples of field studies that will guide trainers and facilitators in introducing and promoting improved land and water management. It comprises 16 modules, each of which contains technical information and a series of practical exercises for training and field experimentation.