A Comprehensive Analysis of Subsurface Irrigation in SSA for an Optimisation and Adaption of an Environmental friendly Irrigation Practice (ComASI)

Africa currently lags behind all other regions in terms of farm productivity levels, with depressed crop and livestock yields. Its agricultural sector is confronted with numerous constraints, such as soil erosion and degradation, increasing salinity, excessive tapping of groundwater and persistent droughts (IFAD 20101).

A mayor part of these problems can be related to poor irrigation technology. Irrigation is an important issue to increase crop productivity, to ensure a harvest under difficult climate conditions and thus to reduce poverty and hunger. The commonly used, accepted and low cost irrigation technique is the traditional surface irrigation (flooding) which is water wasting and not environmentally friendly. A more efficient and environmental friendly technique is the subsurface irrigation (SI).

The main advantages of this technique are the dry soil surface (evaporation is minimized), dry plant foliage (prevents plant diseases) and the effective use of water due to the direct application in the plants’ root zone. These known system advantages make the SI techniques very favorable with respect to the expected impacts of climate change like water scarcity, rising temperature and thus higher evaporation rates.

The proposed project coordinated by the Kassel University will establish links between projects dealing with SI methods in Ivory Coast, Algeria, Kenya and Namibia. Within the framework each project will conduct an analysis of SI methods in field trials under local conditions in terms of water productivity, use of low quality water, salinity effects in the soil and socio economic aspects. The proposed project aims at aligning these projects and the involved capacity-building activities, in order to achieve comparable results that will finally allow comparing and evaluating existing SI technologies. One main project objective is to summarize the results from the different projects into guidelines for stakeholders, small scale farmers, water managers, water authorities and ministries.

The project will induce important progress in comprehensive knowledge on SI-technology. It will allow maximizing the quality and skill diversity of the expertise base by strengthening research and training links between African institutions, between African institutions and northern partners, and between francophone and anglophone countries. The project results will allow an optimized choice and application of appropriate technology with respect to specific local conditions. It will thus contribute to an improvement of the environmental and economic situation of farmers in the affected countries and beyond. As the program's objectives will be accomplished in a multidisciplinary and multinational group of researchers and agricultural practitioners, it will create a network among experts of different scientific fields, between different countries and between the scientific world and the agricultural practice.

Project partners

fact sheet

responsible : Dr. Andrea Dührkoop