Presentation of the survey

A massive effort has been made in the last decade to understand better the situation of water resources management and irrigation in Africa. In almost every country where water is seen as a major constraint to agricultural development, detailed studies on water resources and irrigation have been carried out. Yet it is still very difficult to obtain reliable, systematic information by country over large regions of the continent.

To address this problem, it was decided to launch a programme, later called AQUASTAT, which would use the information existing in the countries and make it available, in a standard format, to users interested in global or regional perspectives. In 1994, priority was given to the 53 countries of the African continent, and this publication is the result of that survey.
The purpose of the survey was twofold:

  • to provide a clear picture of the situation of rural water resources management on a country basis, with emphasis on irrigation, and featuring major characteristics, trends, constraints and perspectives;
  • to help support continental and regional analyses by providing systematic and reliable information on water for agriculture and rural development, and to serve as a tool for large-scale planning and projection making.

In order to obtain information that was as reliable as possible, the survey was developed and carried out as follows:

  1. Country-based reviews of literature and existing information.
  2. Data collection through a detailed questionnaire.
  3. Data processing and critical analysis of the information, with the assistance of data processing software developed specifically for the survey and selection of the most reliable information.
  4. Preparation of a country profile and submission to national authorities responsible for water resources and irrigation for further correction and approval.
  5. Preparation of continental tables and maps, and cross-checking the information wherever possible.

Country profiles

Country profiles were prepared in the official FAO language of the country (except Equatorial Guinea which was prepared in English) and are presented here as such. Tables and maps are presented in English and French.

The country profile describes the situation regarding water resources and use in the country, and especially of the irrigation and drainage subsector. Its aim is to emphasize the particularities of each country, as well as the problems encountered in rural water management and irrigation. It also summarizes the trends of irrigation in the countries, as described in the literature available. It was a deliberate choice to attempt standardizing the country profiles as much as possible. All profiles follow a single pattern, organized in sections:

  • geography and population, and climate and water resources;
  • irrigation development;
  • institutional environment;
  • trends and evolution in water management;
  • sources of information.

Standardized tables are used for all country profiles. When information is not available, it is represented by a dash (-). As most of the data are available for only a limited number of years, the most recent reliable data are used in the tables, with an indication of the year to which they refer.

Data collection, processing and reliability

The main sources of information were:

  • national water resources and irrigation master plans;
  • national yearbooks, statistics and reports;
  • reports from FAO or other projects;
  • international surveys;
  • results from national or international research centre surveys.

In total 50 variables were selected and are presented in the tables attached to each country profile. They are grouped into categories corresponding to the sections of the profiles. A detailed definition of each variable is given below.

In most cases, a critical analysis of the information was necessary to ensure consistency between the different data collected for a given country. When several sources give different or contradictory figures, preference was always given to information collected at national or sub-national level and, unless proved wrong, to official rather than unofficial sources. In the case of shared water resources, comparison between countries was made to ensure consistency at river-basin level.

It remains that the accuracy and reliability of the information vary greatly between regions, countries and categories of information, as does the year in which the information was gathered. These considerations are discussed in the country profiles.

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