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Informal Irrigation in Urban West Africa: An Overview

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Drechsel, Pay; Graefe, Sophie; Sonou, Moise; Cofie, Olufunke O.
Date: 2006
Agency: International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo, Sri Lanka
Series: IWMI Research Report 102
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4218
Sector: Social Organization
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Africa
Subject(s): urban affairs
water quality
water pollution
Abstract: "In West Africa, the urban population is taking over the rural. Informal irrigation in urban and peri-urban areas taking advantage of the growing urban markets and the common lack of refrigerated transportation and storage, complements rural agriculture in feeding the cities with fresh vegetables. This report tries to provide a state-of-the-art overview on irrigated urban agriculture in the West African sub-region based on a comprehensive literature review supported by the results of three IWMI-FAO projects. In some countries, like Ghana, informal irrigation in the rural-urban interface covers an area greater than the area under formal irrigation in the whole country. This calls for a policy shift as informal irrigation receives so far little recognition and is facing many constraints. Especially in urban areas, tenure security is usually low and investments in infrastructure, minimal. Manual water fetching with watering cans is most common. Appropriate sites with access to safe irrigation water are rare, particularly in and downstream of the cities. Many farmers are poor migrants from rural areas. Where groundwater is not accessible, they often have no other water sources than polluted streams or they do farming along storm water drains and gutters. However, those involved in year-round irrigated farming can earn twice more than those in traditional rain-fed farming despite much smaller farm sizes. Even more profitable is vegetable marketing, which is--in contrast to farming in most cities--the domain of women. Data on the aggregate benefit of urban agriculture to society are rare. There are 20 million people engaged in different forms of urban agriculture in West Africa, and in many cities 60-100 percent of the consumed perishable vegetables are also produced within the city. In Accra, for example, 280,000 urban dwellers benefit from urban vegetable farming everyday. This figure also gives an estimate of the number of people at risk from 'wastewater irrigation', an issue which constrains the support of urban farming in many cities. Thus, despite its benefits, the urban vegetable production in most countries remains in a state of laissez-faire without enforced restrictions or serious assistance. Current initiatives show positive signs for a change towards higher recognition of the informal irrigation sector, also in urban and peri-urban areas."

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