Linked to IWMI’s research on health and livelihoods impacts of wastewater use in agriculture (MTP Project 5 output 2002-2004) and guidelines for national water management policies (MTP Project 4 2003), IWMI undertook in-depth analyses of the informal irrigation sector, especially in urban and peri-urban areas. Informal irrigation refers to irrigation methods developed without public funding or official recognition, and includes smallholder irrigation along streams, in areas with shallow groundwater, or around small reservoirs. IWMI’s research and publications, in particular on urban and peri-urban agriculture highlight the importance of informal irrigation on food supply, poverty alleviation and local livelihoods, particularly for women. Further, IWMI research confirmed that although unrecognized in statistics and policy, the informal irrigation sector in Ghana is at least twice as large as the formal irrigation sector. The results have significantly influenced Ghana’s new draft National Irrigation Policy, the first national policy in Africa that supports urban agriculture and recognizes “informal irrigation” as equally important as the Governmental supported “formal irrigation sector.” As a member of the Irrigation Policy Steering Committee and the Regional Center on Urban Agriculture and Food Security, IWMI and its partners introduced their research findings and recommended the recognition and support of “informal irrigation” in Ghana. As a result, the new policy identifies informal irrigation as one of three irrigation sub-sectors, and also acknowledges the role and needed support for irrigated urban and peri-urban agriculture.
The new policy, to be presented to the Cabinet in early 2006, will have significant implications on the irrigation sector and tens of thousands of hitherto unsupported smallholders engaged in “informal” irrigation. Verification of IWMI’s influence on the Irrigation Policy was received from its coordinating officer (Ben Nyamadi) at Ghanas Irrigation Development Agency, Ministry of Food and Agriculture.