The World Bank is working together with its member countries and investment partners to reform water use in agriculture. To ensure such reforms are environmentally sustainable, the Bank uses an approach to irrigation and drainage projects that emphasizes transparent accounting of agricultural water use, modernization of existing public irrigation schemes, and transformation of public institutions together with improved sector investment planning.
The expansion of irrigation will also continue to be an important source of productivity growth, especially in Africa and parts of Latin America that still have large untapped water resources and opportunities for economically feasible agricultural use. In other regions where the scope for further expanding irrigated agriculture is limited, more efforts are needed to better use the available water, raising water productivity and its sustainable use. This includes addressing the technical, policy, and governance aspects of agricultural water use while accounting for the competing demands of other water-using sectors. Ensuring sustainability of irrigation investments will require more effective measures to achieve sustainable financing for operation and maintenance.
The World Bank will continue to help its clients improve water management in rainfed agriculture, which covers most of the world’s cropland and accounts for most of agricultural production in developing countries. Combined with an improvement in other production factors, such as soil fertility, crop varieties, and tillage practices, better management of rainfall and runoff can help to achieve significant increases in yields and agricultural productivity.
Specifically, the World Bank will continue to support: (i) strengthening water management in rainfed areas through a combination of measures ranging from technological interventions, such as water harvesting and other water control and water capture infrastructure, to the provision of better climatic information and innovative approaches that allow farmers to better cope with the risks posed by climate variability; (ii) improving watershed management practices, in particular in rainfed areas, and reforestation in upper watersheds to reduce soil erosion and enhance water capture; (iii) expanding new irrigated areas, especially in Africa, with a focus on viable smallholder and small-scale, community-managed irrigation, and also public-private partnerships; (iv) rehabilitating and modernizing existing irrigated areas, including large-scale systems; (v) strengthening irrigation services, including for women, as well as supporting water user associations and the decentralization of management functions, including for more sustainable operation and maintenance of irrigation systems; (vi) strengthening systems for water rights allocation and improving water pricing; (vii) putting a stronger focus on assessing water resource availability in the longer-term and promoting irrigation water conservation, including through better monitoring and modeling; and (viii) improving river basin and groundwater management through institutional development and a move toward more integrated water management.