Sustainable Inclusive Irrigation

The Sustainable Inclusive Irrigation approach contributes to irrigation development and management, balancing environmental, social, and economic needs.

Whereas most of agricultural production is rainfed, irrigation is seen as a core climate change adaptation strategy by many countries and will continue to expand as part of their food security objectives. The focus is almost exclusively on water abstraction and field-level water efficiency. Yet, for irrigation to be sustainable, we consider the entire water footprint, pollution, as well as equity and efficiency issues linked to irrigation.

Agricultural livelihoods, crop yields, and livestock health all depend on the availability of water. So do households that live within the vicinity of agricultural areas whose daily water needs keep them nourished (drinking, washing vegetables) and healthy (pour-flush toilets, handwashing with soap). With changing rainfall patterns and increased evapotranspiration, conflicting interests may arise. It is therefore imperative to balance the different needs and ensure that efforts to boost irrigation systems’ capacity to adapt to climate change consider multiple uses of water as well as the sustainability of the resource.

Our Sustainable Inclusive Irrigation (SII) approach is a holistic multi-scale approach for groundwater and surface water irrigation applied at different scales: large, medium, small-scale irrigation, and individual extraction. Through SII, we raise the focus on irrigation governance, the performance of scheme management, services for farmers for field-level irrigation, and the quality and transparent construction and rehabilitation of infrastructure.

Within our irrigation work, we link up with agricultural development services around crop management and the development of agricultural value chains and/or WASH services, as these relate to multiple uses of water for domestic purposes.

Photo credit: Md Shafiul for SNV and HOV Bangladesh.