The 2005 report from the Commission for Africa rightly notes that agricultural performance is a driver of poverty trends in the continent. In terms of water for agriculture, the report focuses on the challenges of increasing spending on physical irrigation infrastructure and extending the area under irrigation to twice the current coverage (Commission for Africa 2005: 73).
These are very significant issues in their own right, but fall short of providing a complete picture on the challenge posed by water management problems in Africa. The emphasis is largely on creating new infrastructure as opposed to looking at the social and institutional aspects of water management, or indeed on enhancing the potential of dryland agriculture. Since water plays a key role in enhancing both food security and agricultural production, this article asks whether Africa needs a “blue revolution” (cf Lipton 2001) and what this might entail. It does so by looking at the broad water resource picture and the links to food security and poverty, before narrowing down its focus to technological innovation and the accompanying legal, institutional and policy environment in water management.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 36.2 (2005) A “Blue Revolution” for African Agriculture?