Energizing and watering Agribusiness

by Amathe Pathe Sene, IFAD's Regional Climate and Environment Specialist for West and Central Africa speaking at the 4th German-African Agribusiness Forum in Berlin

Irrigation in Africa has the potential to boost agricultural productivity by at least 50 percent and combining innovative methods of energy production for food production on the continent is almost crucial.

Land, water and energy resources are central to agriculture and rural transformation. They are intrinsically linked to current global challenges of food insecurity and poverty, climate change, conflicts and migration as well as the degradation of natural resources.

In Africa, agriculture continues to be the main source of income for the rural poor which is being eroded because of climate change. Unpredictable rain-fed agricultural systems in drylands combined with unsustainable land and water management practices; lack of access to reliable and affordable renewable energy technologies and limited skills contribute to the low performance and vulnerability of the agricultural sector. This in turn limits investment to modernize the sector.

Most rainfed areas need to be irrigated to produce the additional food needed to feed 1.5 billion people by 2030 and reduce poverty. At the same time, agriculture must become a more attractive option to more than 330 million young Africans who are entering the labour market by 2025. This is a big challenge but also a great opportunity for all of us.

Better land use, water management, such as trough irrigation techniques, and access to affordable renewable energy contribute to increased productivity with a longer cropping season. In turn, this reduces the chances of water scarcity or water excess, increasing household incomes, making labour savings and accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy resources.

So what is IFAD doing?

IFAD prioritizes the toughest work with the most disadvantaged people, those being poor rural small holder farmers, youth and women.

IFAD's approach to land, water and energy is an integrated one. It is designed to get more income per drop of water to lift the poor out of poverty; more nutritional value per drop to fight food insecurity while strengthening smallholder farmers resilience to climate shocks.

The so-called water and energy nexus can contribute to improving agricultural production through pumping water, primary processing, fish farming, livestock rearing, or small-scale industries, to name a few.

IFAD considers farming at any scale as a business. Smallholders and producers must be treated as entrepreneurs and businesses need clear linkages along the value chain, from production to processing, post-harvest handling, marketing and ultimately to consumption.

We devote significant efforts in what is commonly known as "the 4Ps" i.e. public-private-producer-partnerships, to de-risk, deliver water, energy, goods and services around the agricultural value chain and food systems.

With its Smallholder and SME Investment Finance (SIF) Fund; complemented by the Technical Assistance Facility (TAF), IFAD promotes blended finance on water and energy sector services and goods.

In Madagascar, IFAD is scaling up its micro-irrigation project, supporting more than 10,000 vulnerable smallholder farmers to use micro irrigation systems (MIS) and natural fertilizers to improve their productivity and food security.

IFAD has almost 40 years of experience in providing loans and grants to support governments on programmes that focus on restoring, managing efficiently and governing natural capital (water/land); promoting crop varieties and cropping techniques to adapt to the variability of rainfall (duration, intensity, timing) and secure food production.

Through its Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), the world's largest adaptation programme for smallholder farmers, IFAD supports poor communities in building water and energy infrastructure within the catchment and agricultural value chains in Cabo Verde, Niger, Ethiopia, Benin, Mauritania.

In many countries in Africa, we invest in dams, canals and pipe distribution networks, reservoirs, treatment plants, small hydropower installations as well as micro-irrigation schemes such as drip-irrigation for rational use of available surface water and groundwater resources (whether fresh, brackish or saline).

We support the access and deployment of renewable energy technologies to power the agricultural value chains. In Nigeria and Rwanda, IFAD has introduced energy-efficient processing and storage technologies (e.g. solar heating, cooling, drying and energy-saving appliances), while in Mali, Mozambique and Rwanda, IFAD has enhanced and diversified access to clean energy sources through the promotion of household biogas digesters, solar home systems and solar PV pumping systems.

With the climate and environmental finance (GCF, GEF, AF), we encourage governments to invest in innovative renewable energy solutions and efficient irrigation technologies to accelerate climate resilient and low carbon agriculture development for food production on the continent.