2022-06-27Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac77a5
Accounting for socioeconomic constraints in sustainable irrigation expansion assessments
Sustainable irrigation expansion over water limited croplands is an important measure to enhance agricultural yields and increase the resilience of crop production to global warming. While existing global assessments of irrigation expansion mainly illustrate the biophysical potential for irrigation, socioeconomic factors such as weak governance or low income, that demonstrably impede the successful implementation of sustainable irrigation, remain largely underexplored. Here we provide five scenarios of sustainable irrigation deployment in the 21st century integrated into the framework of Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, which account for biophysical irrigation limits and socioeconomic constraints. We find that the potential for sustainable irrigation expansion implied by biophysical limits alone is considerably reduced when socioeconomic factors are considered. Even under an optimistic scenario of socio-economic development, we find that additional calories produced via sustainable irrigation by 2100 might reach only half of the maximum biophysical potential. Regions with currently modest socioeconomic development such as Sub-Saharan Africa are found to have the highest potential for improvements. In a scenario of sustainable development, Sub-Saharan Africa would be able to almost double irrigated food production and feed an additional 70 million people compared to 2020, whereas in a scenario where regional rivalry prevails, this potential would be halved. Increasing sustainable irrigation will be key for countries to meet the projected food demands, tackle malnutrition and rural poverty in the context of increasing impacts of anthropogenic climate change on food systems. Our results suggest that improving governance levels for example through enhancing the effectiveness of institutions will constitute an important leverage to increase adaptive capacity in the agricultural sector.