Managing Rainwater for Resilient Dryland Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa: Review of Evidences



Rainfed agriculture will continue to play an important role in achieving food security and reducing poverty in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). But it is threatened by a combination of technology, policy, and institutional failures. Effects of recurrent drought and future climatic changes would affect rainfed systems and it would be most felt in SSA systems, where local institutions are not yet well prepared to respond to emerging climatic shocks. Rainwater management (RWM) is one strategy that could minimize drought effects through mapping, capturing, storing, and efficiently utilizing runoff and surface water emerging from farms and watershed for both productive purposes and ecosystem services. The extra water saved could be used to grow long maturing crops, producing more than one crop per season or diversify production systems. Enabling wider adoption of RWM interventions would improve the profitability of smallholder agriculture by increasing crop and livestock yield by factors of up to fivefold, while net returns on investment could double. However, adoptions of these interventions demand supportive policies and institutions, to enable farmer innovation, multi-institutional engagements, and collective action of actors at various levels. This is particularly critical in semiarid river basins, for instance the Nile basin, where because water availability is seasonal, upstream water towers are threatened by land degradation and deforestation and competition for surface water is becoming severe and could ignite regional conflict. This chapter contributes to the ongoing discussion on rainfed agriculture by not only inventorying the available RWM technologies and practices that could be used by small-scale farmers under various drought scenarios but also reviewing the challenges of technology uptake. It suggests institutional arrangements and policy recommendations required to improve uptake of RWM interventions at local, national, and regional levels.


Interventions Rainwater Management Uptake Policy Sub-Saharan Africa 



We would like to acknowledge that an older version of this chapter was presented to the African Climate Change Policy Centre (ACPC). We would also like to thank Dr. Seydou Traore of ACPC for his valuable comments on the initial draft of the chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Crops Research Institute for Semiarid Tropics (ICRISAT)MaputoMozambique
  2. 2.International Water Management Institute (IWMI)International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)Addis AbabaEthiopia
  3. 3.African Climate Policy CentreUNECAAddis AbabaEthiopia
  4. 4.Water Research and Resource CentreJKUATNairobiKenya
  5. 5.Department of Biosystems EngineeringUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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