Good practice principles for water and irrigation in the Horn

Based on existing studies and recent reviews by DLCI (Drylands Learning and Capacity Building Initiative for Improved Policy and Practice in the Horn of Africa) and FAO, the brief Good practice principles on planning for water and irrigation for crop agriculture in the drylands of the Horn of Africa (2015, 16pp) provides some principles and lessons learnt on water supply and crop farming in the drylands of the Horn of Africa (HoA) with a particular focus on Kenya. The HoA drylands are characterised by low and variable rainfall, high ambient temperatures and evaporation rates, and highly seasonal surface water resources. Groundwater resources are largely finite: ancient water sources that are not being replenished. Perennial rivers from moister highlands pass through some dryland areas, but these rivers are being diminished through poorly regulated extraction of water upstream, often linked to irrigation schemes, which are increasingly promoted to meet national and local food security challenges through crop farming. It is important that these interventions recognise the problem of increasing water deficit and the lessons from failed irrigation investments in the past. Over large parts of the region, groundwater is the only source of water for the pastoral communities. Investments should not undermine the existing pastoral livelihoods by taking away critical land and water resources. The full potential of livestock production to national economies remains unexploited, yet governments continue to give precedence to investments in crop farming, ignoring water availability issues, the high exploitation costs and existing evidence of the negative environmental impact of irrigation. This document brings evidence-based guidance for investment in water development in the drylands.

Posted on 31 January 2016 in Pastoralism & Natural Resources, Pastoralist Livelihoods & Nutrition