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World Bank Promises $9 Billion to Improve Farm Yields in Africa

Author 2 years ago
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By Moses Adongo

The glimmer of a sugarcane plantation in an 8,000-hectare piece of land is what catches the attention of anybody who visits the semi-arid Kwale. The yield on this plantation exudes the power of irrigation compared to what would have been realized in reliance on rainwater.

Irrigation is an emerging trend not only in Kenya but across Africa with multibillion-dollar donors now picking it up to improve farming across the continent.

Despite the glowing results, this type of farming has recorded a lowered uptake in sub- Saharan Africa with only 7 percent of the farmland irrigated in this part of the continent. According to the International Water Management Institute, this is the lowest of all proportions in any region of the globe.

However, the situation could improve following a commitment by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to bring improved technology to small-scale farmers especially those affected by worsening drought.

AGRA will also launch a microfinance irrigation fund where investors can borrow loans to develop irrigation infrastructures including wells, water storage, and pipes.

The World Bank has also pledged to partner with the Africa Development Bank and other donor organizations to give up to $9 billion to improve irrigation in the African countries.

According to the World Bank’s global lead for water in agriculture, Steven Schonberger, the grant will start flowing in 2019 and will help in the mapping of areas where improved irrigation is possible.

Rajiv Shah, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, however, warns that the efforts to improve irrigation uptake in Africa must consider the worsening water scarcity as well as climate change which could threaten the sustainability of the projects.

Nuhu Hatibu, the East Africa head of AGRA, believes such hurdles can be avoided through the use of technology that could regulate the amount of water pumped against the recharge of groundwater. He says that technology could ensure that more water sinks into the ground to refill the underground water stores.

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