Publication: Investing in Smallholder Irrigation

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Naugle, Jon
Sellen, Daniel
Darghouth, Salah
Dinar, Ariel
Smallholder irrigated horticulture has proven to be a viable and attractive option for poor farmers in developing countries. This paper relates two important lessons learned: low-cost productive technologies must be available to smallholders in terms of both location and price and must correspond to their needs, and the importance of a market-led approach for financing technology acquisition. The paper concludes with the following recommendations: use privately owned technologies to avoid collective action problems and reliance on government assistance -- this increases the likelihood that irrigation assets will be maintained; consider simple technologies such as treadle pumps and drip irrigation kits -- these self-select for poor households; ensure that a minimum set of resource and market conditions are satisfied before promoting irrigation; develop supply chains that are dominated by private entrepreneurs such as pump manufacturers and repair shops; rethink the definition of smallholder-irrigated agriculture in view of market gardening -- many farmers, particularly the poorest, irrigate plots smaller than one-tenth of a hectare; recognize that rapid introduction of mechanized technologies can easily overwhelm a poor smallholder in terms of capacity -- scaling up to mechanized pumps has been demonstrated successfully but may take time; and make sure there are markets for the outputs, or help create them, to ensure that increased production is profitable.
Naugle, Jon; Sellen, Daniel; Darghouth, Salah; Dinar, Ariel. 2006. Investing in Smallholder Irrigation. Agricultural and Rural Development Notes; No. 16. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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