Shallow groundwater in sub-Saharan Africa: neglected opportunity for sustainable intensification of small-scale agriculture?
Other literature type
Haile, Alemseged Tamiru
(issn: 1607-7938, eissn: 1607-7938)
There is a need for an evidence-based approach to identify how best to support development
groundwater for small scale irrigation
sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
We argue that it is
important to focus this effort on shallow groundwater resources which are
most likely to be
used by poor rural communities in SSA.
However, it is important to consider constraints,
since shallow groundwater resources are likely to be vulnerable to over-exploitation and
We examine here the opportunities and
constraints and draw upon
evidence from Ethiopia.
We present a methodology for assessing and interpreting available
shallow groundwater resources and argue that participatory monitoring of local water
resources is desirable and feasible. We consider possib
le models for developing distributed
and assess its technical feasibility.
Because of power limits on water
lifting and also because of available technology
for well construction, groundwater at depths
of 50 m or 60 m cannot be regarded as easily accessible for small-scale irrigation. We
adopt a working definition of
shallow groundwater as
< 20 m depth.
This detailed case study
in the Dangila woreda in Ethiopia
the feasibility of
exploiting shallow groundwater for small-scale irrigation over a range of rainfall conditions.
Variability of rainfall
over the study period
(9 % to 96 % probability of non-exceedance)
not translate into equivalent variability in groundwater levels and
monitored by local communities, persist
into the dry season
to at least
the end of December
in most shallow wells, indicating that
use after the cessation of the wet season.
Arguments historically put forward
against the promotion of groundwater use for agriculture in SSA
on the basis
that aquifers are
irrigation will have unacceptable impacts on wetlands and other
groundwater-dependent ecosystems appear exaggerated.
It would be unwise to generalise
from this case study to the whole of SSA, but useful insights into the wider issues are
revealed by the
case study approach. We believe there is a case for arguing that shallow
groundwater in sub-Saharan Africa represents a
neglected opportunity for sustainable
intensification of small-scale agriculture.