The Role of Small Scale Irrigation to Household Food Security in Ethiopia: A Review Paper

Jemal Ahmed


Ethiopia has been highly affected by drought and climate-related hazards, and millions of people have been left without sustenance every year. Irrigation as an agricultural intensification plays key role in increasing agricultural production and productivity. The Government of Ethiopia has identified small-scale irrigation as an important component of adaptation. This review paper is aimed to compile the existing literature on the role of small-scale irrigation scheme on the rural household food security and factors affecting the households’ food security in the country. The country is blessed with abundant water resources and believed to have the potential of 5.1 million hectares of land that could be developed for irrigation. However, about 3% to 5% of the irrigable land was irrigated currently. Irrigation in Ethiopia is considered as a basic strategy to alleviate poverty and hence improve food security. It is useful to transform the rain-fed agricultural system that depends on rainfall into the combined rain-fed and irrigation agricultural system. Irrigated agriculture is becoming increasingly important in meeting the demands of food security, employment, rural transformation and poverty reduction. For Ethiopia, increase in agricultural production through diversification and intensification of crops grown, increased household income because of on/off/non-farm employment, source of animal feed, improving human health due to balanced diet and easy access and utilization for medication, soil and ecology degradation prevention and asset ownership are contributions of small scale irrigation. The value of per hectare crop production under irrigated settings is about twice that of under rain-fed settings. Household income and consumption are much higher in irrigated settings than in rain-fed settings. Hence, it was concluded that irrigation has positive role on the rural farming households’ food security, and it should be a policy priority in Ethiopia for rural poverty alleviation, climate change adaptation and overall economic growth.

Keywords: Food security, Small-scale irrigation, Role

DOI: 10.7176/JRDM/60-03

Publication date:October 31st 2019

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