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Home The River Basin People and the River Governance Resource Management
Resource Management
Water Demand
Water Infrastructure
 Dams and Associated Infrastructure
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 Irrigation Infrastructure
Irrigation in Angola
 Irrigation in Namibia
 Operation and Maintenance of Infrastructure
 Rehabilitation and Future Development
 Wastewater Infrastructure
The Value of Water
Resource Monitoring
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Irrigation in Angola  

In 2004 agriculture was the main economic activity for 71 % of the Angolan population. Agriculture is also the main water consumer. In 2000, of the 343 million m³ of water consumed, 210 million m³ was used in agriculture (see Water Use and Agriculture).

Recent detailed data regarding irrigation in Angola is relatively scarce. According to estimates from 2005, the total potential irrigable area is around 3.7 million ha (FAO 2005a). Before independence the total area under irrigation has been estimated at around 400 000 ha (11 % of the potential area). The rehabilitation and extension of irrigated areas has been made a priority activity in rebuilding the country and to ensure food security.

Irrigation Systems in Angola

Irrigation systems in Angola can currently be divided into three broad categories:

  • Large to medium scale irrigation systems fully or partly equipped with water control works. These occupy river floodplains in humid and dry coastal zones and the southern temperate and arid zones. During the 1990s they evolved towards green–belt farms and are operated by a combination of smallholder and commercial farmers. Plots sizes vary from between 15 to 50 ha for commercial farmers and around 3 to 4 ha for small farmers. Around 10 000 ha were reported to be irrigated in this way in 2004.
  • Small–scale gravity or pumped systems. Generally they are found in the Central Plateau and close to the existing larger green–belt farms. These systems are used to produce maize, fruit and vegetables and are worked by smallholder commercial farmers. Up to 320 000 ha were irrigated this way until 1974. Recent figures show a sharp decline to between 15 000 and 25 000 ha. Usually the plot sizes are between 1 and 2.5 ha.
  • Lowland water systems exist in vast areas of central and eastern Angola, where rains are sufficient but unequally distributed. Historical data suggests that as much as 850 000 ha were irrigated in this way before 1974. They are now used for extensive rice production systems and limited amounts of vegetables are also produced in these areas.
Source: GoA 2005

The long period of war (1975-2002) hampered both the development of new irrigation schemes and the regular operation and maintenance of existing schemes. This resulted in a gradual decline in the irrigated area. Most public projects also experienced the non-renewal of outdated equipment, and a lack of funds for the completion of civil works and hydraulic structures.

In the Kunene River basin rainfall is generally below 1 000 mm per year in the Middle and Lower Kunene, and decreases along the course of the river. In the Lower Kunene, agriculture would not be possible without irrigation. The basin however has a high irrigation potential.

Recent estimates suggest that about 340 000 hectares are currently under full or partial irrigation in Angola and that the irrigated area in the Kunene basin is around 42 000 ha (representing 12.3 % of total irrigated area in Angola) consuming around 0.4 km³ of water per year (SWECO Grøner 2005). A further 780 000 ha are planned for rehabilitation, to be completed by 2025. Existing irrigation projects are concentrated in regions considered as having a tropical desert, tropical dry or tropical semi-humid climate. There are two main types of irrigation: public (or formal) irrigation or private irrigation (GoA 2004b).

The renovation of public irrigation schemes has been prioritised by the government as they are seen as offering a possibility of improving agricultural production in the short and medium term. These schemes already have some irrigation infrastructure and the farmers involved have a degree of experience with irrigation systems. Investing in the rehabilitation of these schemes is considered to be a better investment than building new projects (GoA 2004b).

Irrigation canal at Matala, Angola.
Source: Vogel 2010
( click to enlarge )

By 2025 a dramatic Increase in the Irrigated Area is planned, with over 600 000 ha earmarked for irrigation, mainly along the Kunene River itself. The vast majority of this land (595 000 ha) is in the Middle Kunene. If all this land were to be used for irrigation however, the irrigation water demand would be over 8 km³ per year, whilst the Kunene River only has an annual average discharge of 5 km³ measured at Ruacana. 




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