1st Edition

Sustainable Groundwater Development for Improved Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa

Edited By Paul Pavelic, Karen G. Villholth, Shilp Verma Copyright 2023

    This book provides a comprehensive analysis of the benefits and challenges of intensifying groundwater irrigation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) for improving smallholder agrarian livelihoods. Only about 3% of the groundwater resources of Sub-Saharan Africa are used for irrigated agriculture despite the subcontinent’s relative abundance of groundwater. The majority of the region’s smallholders are highly dependent on seasonal dryland cropping, making them extremely vulnerable to uncertain weather patterns and droughts. Improved irrigation capabilities through sustainable groundwater development could unleash smallholder farming and make it a major driver of economic growth, poverty reduction, climate resilience, and improved food security. So, why is groundwater so underused? Tapping into groundwater requires a major shift in farming practices and it has its own challenges and requirements – smallholder access to land and finance for irrigation infrastructure and equipment, gendered and equitable adoption options. This whole list is framed in terms of what the smallholder farmers need. Hence, this should also be put in this context, supply chains, energy access, resource availability, and institutional support.

    The chapters in this book present a picture that is not only heterogeneous across the region, but also hold some common denominators. They serve to enrich the discourse and help better understand the barriers along the pathways toward the sustainable and transformative adoption of groundwater irrigation. The scientific information provided herein would be of interest to researchers, practitioners, decision makers and planners with interest in the region. This book was originally published as a Special Issue of Water International journal.

    Introduction: Identifying the barriers and pathways forward for expanding the use of groundwater for irrigation in Sub-Saharan Africa

    Paul Pavelic, Karen G. Villholth and Shilp Verma

    1. Groundwater irrigation for smallholders in Sub-Saharan Africa – a synthesis of current knowledge to guide sustainable outcomes

    Karen G. Villholth

    2. Smallholder groundwater irrigation in Sub-Saharan Africa: country-level estimates of

    development potential

    Paul Pavelic, Karen G. Villholth, Yunqiao Shu, Lisa-Maria Rebelo and Vladimir Smakhtin

    3. Understanding smallholder irrigation in Sub-Saharan Africa: results of a sample survey from nine countries

    Tushaar Shah, Shilp Verma and Paul Pavelic

    4. Do policy and institutional factors explain the low levels of smallholder groundwater use in Sub-Saharan Africa?

    Srinivas Chokkakula and Mark Giordano

    5. Small pumps and poor farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa: an assessment of current extent of use and poverty outreach

    Regassa E. Namara, Gebrehawaria Gebregziabher, Meredith Giordano and Charlotte De Fraiture

    6. Small pumps and the poor: a field survey in the Upper East Region of Ghana

    Saa Dittoh, Joseph A. Awuni and Margaret A. Akuriba

    7. Improving the supply chain of motor pumps to accelerate mechanized small-scale private irrigation in Zambia

    Willem Colenbrander and Barbara van Koppen

    8. Gender aspects of smallholder private groundwater irrigation in Ghana and Zambia

    Barbara Van Koppen, Lesley Hope and Willem Colenbrander

    9. Integrated assessment of hydrogeology and water quality for groundwater-based irrigation development in the Raya Valley, northern Ethiopia

    Tenalem Ayenew, Merhawi GebreEgziabher, Seifu Kebede and Sileshi Mamo

    10. Cost-benefit analysis and ideas for cost sharing of groundwater irrigation: evidence from north-eastern Ethiopia

    Gebrehaweria Gebregziabher, Karen G. Villholth, Munir A. Hanjra, Muleta Yirga and Regassa E. Namara

    11. Predicting groundwater recharge in Ghana by estimating evapotranspiration

    Fathi M. Anayah, Jagath J. Kaluarachchi, Paul Pavelic and Vladimir Smakhtin

    12. Groundwater potential for dry-season irrigation in north-eastern Ghana

    E. Obuobie, D. Ofori, S. Agodzo and C. Okra

    13. Constraints and opportunities for groundwater irrigation arising from hydrologic shifts in the Iullemmeden Basin, south-western Niger

    Bio Mohamadou Torou, Guillaume Favreau, Bruno Barbier, Paul Pavelic, Mahamadou Illou and Fatoumata Sidibé


    Paul Pavelic, Karen G. Villholth and Shilp Verma


    Paul Pavelic is Senior Researcher at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and is also an Associate Professor with Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia by affiliation. Paul has led or participated in many interdisciplinary studies in Africa and Asia. His areas of expertise include groundwater assessment and management, conjunctive water use, urban hydrology and water reuse, agricultural water management and managed aquifer recharge.

    Karen G. Villholth is Director of Water Cycle Innovation (Pty) Ltd, South Africa. She has more than 30 years of experience in research for development. She worked for the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) for 13 years in Asia and Africa and chaired the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP) for more than 5 years. Her areas of expertise include transboundary waters, groundwater and food security, groundwater resources assessment and integrated modelling, climate change and groundwater, groundwater-dependent ecosystems, Groundwater-Based Natural Infrastructure (GBNI), groundwater protection, ‘Whole of the Water Cycle’ management, and governance.

    Shilp Verma is Senior Researcher, Water-Energy-Food Policies with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), India. An alumnus of the University of Delhi, the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) and UNESCO-IHE, Institute for Water Education, Delft, Netherlands, Shilp has more than 20 years of experience in the water, energy, agriculture and rural livelihoods domain. In his current role, he leads the IWMI-Tata Water Policy Program in India besides providing leadership to IWMI’s work on sustainable resource management and economic growth in Asia and Africa. His research covers a range of themes relevant for smallholder farming and water security in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.