Opportunities for small scale irrigators

Increasing food production through the use of irrigation in the dry season improves livelihoods. Entrepreneurs and farmers are already leading the development of ‘emerging systems’ with groundwater irrigation systems (with manual or motorized pumping technologies), river or stream pumping, lowland/inland valley rice water capture systems, and private small reservoirs and dugouts.

 The Innovation Lab for Small Scale Irrigation is working to identify how to create more opportunities for farmers and other actors. Researchers, together with farmers and extension, are piloting ways to improve water lifting, conveyance and field distribution. Researchers are also examining mechanisms to improve access to small scale irrigation technologies for both men and women. The project considers scaling the technologies and practices within the context of market and environmental sustainability.

Facts Sheet on Activities in Ghana 


Transitioning from subsistence, rainfed systems to commercial, supplemental irrigation requires upscaling of best-bet technologies and introducing efficient water management. Small-scale irrigation technologies must be profitable for farmers and investors. Technologies must also fit the context of the farm, the biophysical environment, and the market. At the same time, there may be market and environmental boundaries to up-scaling and expanding food production through small-scale irrigation. 

Contributing to solutions

  • Piloting small-scale irrigation technologies testing combinations of water sources (shallow ground and surface water, rooftop rainwater), water extraction technologies (motorized pumps), and appropriate water application (various drip systems, furrow), and irrigation scheduling tools.
  • Generating primary biophysical and socio-economic data to assess opportunities and constraints to scaling.
  • Identifying potential business models to access small-scale irrigation for men, women and youth.
  • Exploring options for irrigating fodder for livestock production.
  • Ensuring the environmental and economic sustainability of irrigation interventions from farmer to watershed scale through an integrated process-oriented modelling suite of SWAT, APEX and FAMSIM.
  • Identifying potential pathways between irrigation and improved nutrition.
  • Presenting the opportunities and constraints related to upscaling for different types of investors.

Towards impact


Field level interventions: Piloting small scale irrigation with farmers

In Ghana, ILSSI has three pilot locations with around 60 women and men farmers. In all sites, ILSSI works with UDS, local MoFA specialists, and women and men farmers to pilot technologies and practices that hold potential for scaling up small scale irrigation. Farmers record data in farmer field books on daily and seasonal practices. In addition, ILSSI has installed measurement instruments in the watersheds to collect primary data. ILSSI also tests water quality to monitor and analyse different water sources in consideration of multiple uses.

 Field sites include:

  • Northern region, Bihinaayili community, Savelugu district: Testing different forms of drip irrigation and irrigation scheduling
  • Upper East region, Zanlerigu community, Nabdam district: Piloting homestead gardens with roof water harvesting and drip irrigation systems developed by UDS and iDE. The drip irrigation systems and irrigation schedule tools are also being piloted by farmers.
  • Upper East region, Dimbasinia community, Kassena Nankana East district: Piloting motorized pumps and furrow irrigation with irrigation scheduling tools to manage water use.

 The project also shares data from other Feed the Future projects in the SADA zone to ensure more robust and relevant modelling, as indicated in the map. 

Modelling scenarios with IDSS

Primary data is collected through field interventions, instrumentation and sampling in the watershed, socio-economic surveys and farm field books. Secondary data is obtained from national and international resources. The project uses a suite of models, SWAT, FARMSIM and APEX, to form an Integrated Decision Support System. Together with stakeholders and partners, the project will develop scenarios to identify opportunities and constraints at landscape and market levels for upscaling high potential technologies and practices. Ex-ante scenarios have been developed in early 2016 to test the framework of the models. Initial scenarios with primary and recently collected data are expected by late 2016 following engagement with key stakeholders to ensure alignment with national goals.


Capacity Development

Capacity development contributes to the long-term impact of the project. The project engages scientists and students at UDS who strengthen their research skills and develop international journal articles and conference papers.Technical specialists, planners, students and scholars participate in training on the IDSS suite of models. The first IDSS training was held in February 2016 at WRI. The project also strengthens the capacity of farmers, extension and private sector suppliers and service providers. UDS and IWMI have trained local MoFA officers and also suppliers and service providers, such as plumbers, at the intervention sites. 

Stakeholder engagement

ILSSI began by engaging with stakeholders to identify priority issues related to the development of small scale irrigation. That engagement informed the project’s interventions in the field. ILSSI is also engaging with key stakeholders and partners to ensure that model scenarios align with national goals and priorities. ILSSI research results will be shared with national partners and private sector actors in Ghana, as well as other partners across Africa. The knowledge generated from the project is expected to be used by partners for scaling solutions and improving policy and practices for improved water management and sustainable agricultural production. Some findings will be shared with scientists in publications in refereed journal and conference proceedings.

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Project partners working toward impact

The project team is working in collaboration with partners across three countries. In Ghana, the interventions are implemented, data collected and capacity development implemented The University of Development Studies (UDS) and the Animal Research Institute (ARI). The Water Research Institute (WRI) and iDE are also playing roles. 

Further information:  This leaflet has been produced by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI;   For more information on this project, contact:

  1. Dr. Davie Kadyampakeni, project leader in Ghana, IWMI (email:;
  2. Dr. Petra Schmitterproject leader in Ethiopia and TanzaniaIWMI (
  3. Dr. Nicole Lefore, overall project managerbased at IWMI South Africa office (e-mail: