Analysis: Investment in Sustainable Irrigation Can Reduce Food Prices, Global Hunger

Investments in increased irrigation and water use efficiency could substantially lower food prices for both staple and more nutrient-dense crops by 2030, according to new analyses summarized by Claudia Ringler, deputy director of the Environment and Production Technology Division of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The analysis found that a combination of accelerated irrigation development with increased investments in water use efficiency would reduce prices of rice, wheat, and maize by 7.4 percent, 3.6 percent, and 1.5 percent, respectively by 2030.

“Although some of these investments might seem expensive, they would provide huge benefits to communities in the developing world and have the potential to help millions leave poverty and hunger behind,” adds Ringler. “Irrigation improvements coupled with increased water conservation provides food in the lean season, stabilizes production at the national scale and lowers food prices globally.”

With 70 percent of the world’s irrigated crop area in South and East Asia, Africa south of the Sahara is the area with the greatest need for irrigation projects and efficiency upgrades. At present, only five percent of harvested land in Africa south of the Sahara is irrigated.

And while the global population is expected to grow by one billion over the next 15 years, funding for international agricultural research and development has declined over the last several years.

Failure to make further investments in agricultural research and irrigation could have dire consequences, Ringler suggests. “By midcentury, half of global population, GDP, and grain production could be at risk of water shortages affecting livelihoods and economic growth.”

The analysis was developed using IFPRI’s International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade.

The full report is available at