Published January 30, 2020 | Version v1
Journal article Open


  • 1. Wageningen Environmental Research, Water and Food, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 2. Overseas Development Institute (ODI), London, UK
  • 3. GEAU Unit, INRAE, Univ Montpellier, Montpellier, France
  • 4. University Montpellier, Montpellier, France IRSTEA, UMR G‐Eau, Montpellier, France
  • 5. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Pretoria, South Africa
  • 6. Mailman School of Public Health, Socio‐medical Sciences, Columbia University, New York, USA
  • 7. Institut National de Recherches en Genie Rural, Eaux et Forets, Tunis, Tunisia
  • 8. ONG Nyeta Conseils, Niono, Mali
  • 9. CSIC‐CEBAS, Murcia, Spain
  • 10. AgroCares, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 11. LISODE, Montpellier, France CIRAD, UR Green, Montpellier, France
  • 12. Stellenbosch University Water Institute (SUWI), Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • 13. Institut d'Economie Rurale, Bamako, Mali
  • 14. Centre de coopération international en recherche Agronomique pour le développement (Cirad), UMR G‐Eau, Montpellier, France
  • 15. German International Cooperation, Addis Ababa
  • 16. Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, Mozambique
  • 17. Mekelle University, Mekelle, Ethiopia
  • 18. Wageningen Environmental Research, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 19. AgriSciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • 20. adelphi, Berlin, Germany
  • 21. University of Zambia (UNZA) Lusaka, Zambia
  • 22. University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  • 23. Deltares, Delft, the Netherlands
  • 24. LISODE, Montpellier, France
  • 25. Technical University of Cartagena (UPCT), Murcia, Spain
  • 26. International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo, Sri Lanka


Boosting the productivity of smallholder farming systems continues to be a major need in Africa. Challenges relating to how to improve irrigation are multi‐factor and multisectoral, and they involve a broad range of actors who must interact to reach decisions collectively. We provide a systematic reflection on findings from the research project EAU4Food, which adopted a transdisciplinary approach to irrigation for food security research in five case studies in Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique, South Africa and Tunisia. The EAU4Food experiences emphasize that actual innovation at irrigated smallholder farm level remains limited without sufficient improvement of the enabling environment and taking note of the wider political economy environment. Most project partners felt at the end of the project that the transdisciplinary approach has indeed enriched the research process by providing different and multiple insights from actors outside the academic field. Local capacity to facilitate transdisciplinary research and engagement with practitioners was developed and could support the continuation and scaling up of the approach. Future projects may benefit from a longer time frame to allow for deeper exchange of lessons learned among different stakeholders and a dedicated effort to analyse possible improvements of the enabling environment from the beginning of the research process. © 2020 The Authors. Irrigation and Drainage published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Commission for Irrigation and Drainage



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EAU4FOOD – European Union and African Union cooperative research to increase Food production in irrigated farming systems in Africa/ EAU4Food 265471
European Commission
MADFORWATER – DevelopMent AnD application of integrated technological and management solutions FOR wasteWATER treatment and efficient reuse in agriculture tailored to the needs of Mediterranean African Countries 688320
European Commission