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

Nizar Abou Zaki, Ali Torabi Haghighi, Pekka M. Rossi, Stefanos Xenarios, Bjørn Kløve

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number896
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 5 2018


  • Abstraction
  • Cultivation
  • Development
  • Groundwater
  • Sustainability
  • Water resources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology

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