University of Oulu

Abou Zaki, N.; Torabi Haghighi, A.; Rossi, P.M.; Xenarios, S.; Kløve, B. An Index-Based Approach to Assess the Water Availability for Irrigated Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa. Water 2018, 10, 896

An index-based approach to assess the water availability for irrigated agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa

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Author: Abou Zaki, Nizar1; Torabi Haghighi, Ali1; Rossi, Pekka M.1;
Organizations: 1Water Resources and Environmental Engineering Research Unit, University of Oulu, 90570 Oulu, Finland
2Graduate School of Public Policy, Nazarbayev University, Astana 01000038, Kazakhstan
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-08-17


Agriculture is a major economic sector in sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, where it contributes 32 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 65 percent of the population. However, SSA countries are farming only a small percentage of their potential cultivable area and are using only a fraction of their renewable water resources. Moreover, despite the importance of land and water resources in SSA, especially in rural areas, there has been little research on their potential. In this study, an index was developed to assess the potential for agriculture, considering renewable water availability of both surface water and groundwater. The index-based approach was then used to assess the potential increase in arable land area in 15 selected SSA countries. The selected countries were classified using the index, based on the availability of renewable water resources nationwide. We also assessed the future water demand by employing three scenarios and combining different rain-fed and irrigated options. The results show that, except for Zimbabwe, the current available surface water or groundwater resources could be sufficient to farm all of the potential cultivable areas in the selected countries when both rain-fed and irrigated systems are fully operational. The findings also indicate that targeted infrastructure projects (e.g., reservoirs, channels), crop management, and water saving techniques could improve surface and groundwater availability in the SSA region.

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Series: Water
ISSN: 2073-4441
ISSN-E: 2073-4441
ISSN-L: 2073-4441
Volume: 10
Issue: 7
Article number: 896
DOI: 10.3390/w10070896
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 218 Environmental engineering
4111 Agronomy
Copyright information: © 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (