African Journal of
Agricultural Research

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Agric. Res.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1991-637X
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJAR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 6848

Full Length Research Paper

Guidelines for sustainable irrigation system design and management in sub-Saharan Africa

Mathias Fru Fonteh
  • Mathias Fru Fonteh
  • Department of Agricultural Engineering, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Dschang, Cameroon.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 26 March 2016
  •  Accepted: 25 April 2017
  •  Published: 18 May 2017


Despite the fact that the economies of most countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are dominated by the agriculture sector, the productivity of the sector is still very low. One of the factors responsible for this is the fact that agriculture in SSA is mainly rain fed despite the abundant water resources in the region. Many attempts have been made in SSA to expand irrigation but most of these efforts have not been successful. The goal of this study was therefore to learn from the few irrigation success stories in SSA, and propose guidelines for sustainable irrigation development. This will thereby contribute to helping farmers adapt better to climate change, increase productivity, ensure food security and consequently eliminate hunger and poverty. The major findings of the study are that irrigation designs should be participatory, tuned to the farmers’ objectives, seek to maximize water use efficiency with priority given to small-scale irrigation systems, and ensure that water supply is reliable. Furthermore, designs should provide opportunities for farmers to grow a variety of crops to ensure both food security and income generation. In addition, farmers should make a significant contribution in the implementation of irrigation projects as well as have significant management responsibility for the completed system which will increase their sense of ownership and commitment. Finally, it is crucial to create an enabling environment for irrigation development by: facilitating access of farmers to water, land, credits, other agricultural inputs, and markets; building capacity of all key stakeholders in irrigation development and facilitating the creation of functional water users associations.


Key words: Successful irrigation development, design considerations, management constraints.