Public-private partnerships in irrigation: how can smallholders benefit?

Houdret, Annabelle / Michael Brüntrup / Waltina Scheumann
External Publications (2020)

in: Rural 21 54 (1) (Online)


Although the positive effects of irrigation on food security and poverty alleviation are well-documented, public investments in this area have been on the decline since the 1990s. Comparing irrigation schemes in Zambia and Morocco, our authors have examined whether private sector investments are suitable to fill this gap and what preconditions have to be met to ensure that PPPs offer advantages for small-scale farmers.

The benefits of irrigation are undisputed. It can help to improve and stabilise agricultural productivity, thereby contributing to food security and to resilience against climate change. Irrigation – either full or supplementary – reduces reliance on erratic rainfall, improves drought resilience and increases yields; it extends cropping periods and cycles, allows the cultivation of a broader spectrum of crops and provides stable conditions for applying further yield-increasing means (fertilisers). Irrigation also encourages farmers to invest, on the one hand, and financial institutions to provide credits, on the other. Moreover, as evidence from Asia shows, irrigation has the potential to reduce poverty rates and income inequalities. But mobilising investments is key to taking advantage of this potential, which can be a problem, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

About the authors

Brüntrup, Michael

Agricultural Economy


Houdret, Annabelle

Political Scientist


Scheumann, Waltina

Political Scientist


Further experts

Dombrowsky, Ines


Donnelly, Aiveen

Politcal Science 

Gubbini, Emily

Social Science 

Hornidge, Anna-Katharina

Development and Knowledge Sociology 

Mudimu, George Tonderai

Agricultural policy economics 

Rukundo, Emmanuel Nshakira

Development Economics 

Sakketa, Tekalign Gutu

Agricultural / Development Economics 

Schoderer, Mirja

Environmental Research 

Schüpf, Dennis