For many farmers, getting the water onto their crops is a big challenge.
Farmers who have access to irrigation have substantially higher incomes and better food security than their neighbours who rely on rainfall alone. In particular, vegetable cultivation in the dry season is very profitable. But this needs a reliable method of drawing water from an available water source, whether it be a river, a reservoir, a pond, canal or groundwater.
Pumps are the obvious answer. Smallholder irrigation has existed for decades, particularly in South Asia. Ten years ago, the treadle pump was popular and the uptake was enthusiastic.
But they are hard work. There is considerable scope for expanding their use, but farmers prefer motor pumps where they are accessible either to buy or to rent, and so the treadle pump is falling out of favour.
The smallholder private irrigation sector is growing thanks largely to cheap, motorized pumps from China and India. We estimate that more than a million smallholders in SubSaharan Africa are now growing vegetables in the dry season using irrigation.
And the scope for further growth and poverty reduction is substantial.