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Financing family rice farming to improve performance of large dams

Large dam-irrigated rice cultivation projects are only justifiable if producers can obtain high yields. To do this, they need to adopt rice varieties with high genetic potential and make intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides. The majority of small producers do not have access to credit to purchase all the inputs required and this leads them either to reduce the area they farm or to apply the inputs at lower than recommended levels. As a consequence, the overall results of these large schemes usually fall short of expectations, with some producers performing very poorly. But experience suggests that seasonal credit for rice farming can be viable, provided that risks are covered and that all stakeholders are involved in researching appropriate solutions.

This policy briefing was produced as part of the work by the Global Water Initiative (GWI) in West Africa, which is an initiative funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and implemented by IIED with IUCN

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Agriculture in large-scale rice irrigation schemes needs to be made to work for both the state, in terms of economic returns and national food security, and for the smallholders whose livelihoods depend on it. When it comes to the development of new dams and large-scale irrigation, more information is needed about their economic viability and how the water, land, and economic benefits can be shared equitably to support local development.

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Global Water Initiative — West Africa