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

Project Summary

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
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

Research Coordinator

Prof. Dr. Oliver Hensel
Kassel University, Department of Agricultural Engineering
Phone: 0049 5542 98 1225


3 years