Irrigation Irrigation

Over the last 50 years, the irrigation and drainage sector has played a vital role in food production, rural economies and in meeting the world’s fast-rising demand for food. But with population growth and water becoming an increasingly scarce resource, irrigated agriculture will need to continue to rapidly expand and become more productive and efficient to produce ‘more crop per drop’. Yet irrigation and drainage systems have seen a decline in investment since the 1980s and schemes are often challenged by inefficient water management, lack of cost recovery and lack of incentives for water saving, all of which place a huge financial burden on government. The scope and scale of irrigation projects can vary widely and involve a range of actors, from constructing key infrastructure, such as main primary canals and secondary canals to on-farm agricultural developed, involving large-scale commercial farmers on one hand to small-scale subsistence farmers on the other.

The private sector has often driven innovation through on-farm water efficiency and in commercial agriculture and yet this has not translated into a large-scale adoption of private sector participation in traditional irrigation schemes, which largely remain publicly funded and managed despite the huge financial burden that this places on governments.

While PPPs in the irrigation sector have been established in Europe for many years, experience from emerging economies has shown a small but growing number of cases of PPP in the irrigation sector. Introducing private sector knowledge, technology and incentive structures can help to improve water use efficiency and ensure more sustainable water management. There are various ways in which PPP arrangements have been used in irrigation, ranging from simple management contracts, where the private party takes over operation and maintenance responsibilities in return for a performance-based payment, to concession contract where the private firm is responsible for constructing, managing and to some extent, financing the irrigation infrastructure assets over a long period of time. PPP projects, for example in Ethiopia, Morocco  and Zambia, have taken very different approaches to the PPP structure to adapt to local conditions and the specific needs of the project.

In irrigation projects in particular, the scope of the PPP can also vary greatly, from the development and operation of the main water source and conveyance to including the on-farm agricultural development. It also should be recognized that irrigation schemes are part of the broader agricultural value chain where the private sector can have a role. This brings its own issues and challenges to consider when assessing the viability of the project as a PPP and presents a unique set of risks such as, land tenure, type of agricultural practices and crops being produced by the farmers, agricultural commodities price volatility and the role of farmer organizations or Water User Associations (WUAs) that need to be taken into account. 

Tools & Guidance

    • 2016
    • Cledan Mandri-Perrott and Jyoti Bisbey
    • PPIAF, World Bank Group (WBG)

    How To Develop Sustainable Irrigation Projects with Private Sector Participation

    As the impact of climate change on food production for both developed and emerging economies shapes a new set of demands worldwide, there is a need to look at how water resources and irrigation can be optimized to meet the requirements of coming generations. This handbook explores one possible route: the use of public private partnerships (PPPs). PPPs have the potential to facilitate an expanded role for the private sector in irrigation, mobilize expertise in the sector, and ensure medium- to long- term sustainability. This handbook compiles some of the most useful international experiences in irrigation PPPs while offering suggestions to practitioners on strategies and approaches to better harness public and private...

    • 2007
    • World Bank Group (WBG)

    Emerging Public-Private Partnerships In Irrigation Development and Management

    As part of its program to analyze key issues related to water for food, the World Bank has prepared a series of background papers: reengaging in Agricultural Water Management, water pricing and cost recovery, and public-private partnership (PPP) in irrigation and drainage (I&D), the subject of this background paper. The objective of this paper is to identify the possible role and opportunities for the private sector to participate with governments and farmers in developing and managing I&D infrastructure. The paper is based on a desk study of reports and on a series of case studies of selected projects.

    • 2017
    • Scheumann, Waltina / Annabelle Houdret / Michael Brüntrup

    Unlocking the irrigation potential in sub-Saharan Africa: are public-private partnerships the way forward?

    Irrigation 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/droughts 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 (fertilizers). Irrigation also encourages farmers to invest, on the one hand, and financial institutions to provide credits, on the other. Moreover, there is evidence from Asia that irrigation has the potential to reduce both poverty rates and income inequalities. Several sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries...

    • 2015
    • Quinn Bernier, Ruth Suseela Meinzen-Dick
    • International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

    Public-Private Partnerships for Irrigation

    Expanding Access or Increasing Inequality

    Public Private Partnerships for irrigation and other development is becoming a widely accepted model for financing future agricultural and overall economic development, and was part of the toolkit of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development's (July 2015, Addis Ababa) to approve a framework for financially supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 Agenda. However, the Outcome Document of the Conference cautioned that such projects “should share risks and reward fairly, include clear accountability mechanisms and meet social and environmental standards” and outlined a need to “build capacity to enter into public-private partnerships, including with regard to planning, contract...

    • 2012
    • World Bank Group (WBG)

    Public Private Partnerships (PPP) - Improving Performance of Irrigation Services Provision

    E-learning that introduces the concepts of PPP and their application to the irrigation sector.

    • 2005
    • F. W. T. Penning de Vries, H. Sally and A. Inocencio
    • Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, International Water Management Institute

    Opportunities for Private Sector Participation in Agricultural Water Development and Management

    This study examines ways to increase food security, reduce poverty and achieve economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa with ‘water’ through increased participation of the private sector and public-private partnerships. This report is a summary of the findings from a review of the literature and critical analysis thereof.

Projects & Case Studies

    • 2012
    • PPIAF

    Private Sector Participation in the Irrigation Sector in Ethiopia

    PPIAF support to two activities in Ethiopia has led to private sector participation in the irrigation sector, which is aimed at improving availability of water for farmers, and increasing food quality and security for Ethiopian residents. In 2006 PPIAF provided support to the government of Ethiopia to prepare an action plan to develop irrigation public-private partnerships (PPPs) in Megech, Ribb River, and Anger Valley. Following agreement on the appropriate PPP model,PPIAF provided additional support in 2010 to draft bidding documents and the model transaction agreement for the Megech-Seraba Irrigation and Drainage Project in North Gondar. In April 2012 the government of Ethiopia signed a contract to engage French operator BRL...

    • 2010
    • International Finance Corporation (IFC)

    Morocco: Guerdane Irrigation

    This note outlines the structure and bidding process for the development of a 30-year concession to improve water security for farmers in Morocco

Lessons & Analysis

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