Majority of farming in sub-Saharan Africa depend solely on rainfall for food production. This results in low productivity and famine, especially during the dry season when there is little or no rainfall. Owing to its far reaching benefits, irrigation systems have been identified and adopted globally as a key approach to addressing agricultural water challenges. However, the annual growth rate of irrigation systems in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly large-scale public schemes, has rather decreased since the late 1970s and currently at 2%, is the slowest in the world. This study examines the factors that influence its development. Secure access to land and water, efficient technologies, stable input/output markets, favorable policies, effective institutions and reliable farmer support environment were identified as vital factors for sustainable irrigation development in the region. A suitable relationship was developed between these factors as a chain of shackles with the chain as strong as the weakest shackle. This theory has been tested on some irrigation systems across sub-Saharan Africa with various degrees of success, and has proven to reveal the sources of success and failure. In the reviewed cases, the weakest factors were secure access to land and water, effective institutions and favorable policies.
Key words: Sustainable irrigation development, sub-Saharan Africa, factors affecting growth, irrigation systems.
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