Africa is an agricultural continent, but its agricultural productivity is the lowest in the world. An aggressive expansion of irrigated area could greatly improve productivity and offset the adverse impact of climate change on food security.
The 5 percent of Africa’s cultivated land that is irrigated accounts for almost a quarter of agricultural production. An additional 1.4 million hectares could be opened to irrigation using water from existing or planned dams at a cost of just $0.3 billion a year. Beyond that, 5.4 million hectares could be opened to small-scale irrigation at an annual cost of $1.8 billion. But in many areas, irrigation is viable only if costs are kept down (an argument for the use of low-cost technologies) or if high-value crops are grown.