Chapter 7: Global flows of investments in agriculture and irrigation-related technologies in sub-Saharan Africa
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Janwillem Liebrand, Wouter Beekman, Chris de Bont and Gert Jan Veldwisch demonstrate that in spite of large investment in top-down large scale irrigation schemes, bottom up and farmers-driven irrigation should not be underestimated. After a twenty-year hiatus in public investments in agriculture and irrigation, donors, as well as many national governments in Africa, have increased their loan – and grant budgets, and national budgets respectively. It marks a change in a liberalization agenda that has its origin in the 1980s, and shows that agriculture and irrigation are back on the global development agenda. In the current research-policy debate in Africa, a major focus of the investments in agriculture is extending the area under reliable water control systems for irrigation, based on a set of persuasive assumptions on the potential of modern technology in agriculture. These assumptions frame the question of ‘agricultural productivity’ in very narrow ways and limit the analysis of complex dynamics and impacts of flows of investments in agriculture and irrigation on the ground. Notably, they underpin a policy debate in which farmers’ initiatives in developing irrigation in Africa are grossly overlooked, and support a tendency to disregard farmers’ diverse livelihoods and aspirations, with the risk that they are left behind.

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