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Climate change resilience in MCC’s irrigation investments

May 6, 2015


Agriculture is the cornerstone of rural livelihoods in the developing world, and irrigated agriculture can boost rural economic growth and food security. For these reasons, MCC has been very involved in projects that support irrigated agriculture in many of its partner countries. And in developing these irrigation investments, MCC must take into account that climate variability and long-term climatic changes can exacerbate existing challenges to irrigation through changes in historical temperature and rainfall patterns, which can alter the timing and amount of annual water flows.

Two of MCC’s irrigation investments, the Agriculture Project in Burkina Faso and the Transition to High Value Agriculture Project in Moldova, provide examples of how MCC projects are reducing vulnerability and improving resilience to the potential effects of climate change.

The Agriculture Project in Burkina Faso invested in a semiarid region that frequently suffers from both droughts and floods that destroy entire crops and put the population at risk of food insecurity. Although the project was not designed specifically with climate change resiliency in mind, investments in water resources management and irrigation will ultimately enable farmers in the Di and Débé irrigation perimeters to better cope with climate change and decrease their vulnerability. 

The Burkina Faso Compact also helped address additional factors that make the population vulnerable to climate shocks and climate change by training farmers in methods that will increase their yields, as well as by distributing newly-irrigated land in a transparent and equitable manner that will give many previously landless families the ability to grow food for their own consumption and for the market for the first time.MCC investments in creating the Di irrigation system, rehabilitating the Débé irrigation system and reinforcing the Lery Dam reduce the probability that recurrent droughts and flooding will be catastrophic to the population and reduces dependency on rain-fed agriculture, allowing the farmers to grow crops even in times of insufficient rainfall and to grow high-nutrient crops such as vegetables that require reliable irrigation. 

Though in a completely different part of the world from Burkina Faso, Moldovan farmers have faced some of the same problems: Climate scientists suggest that droughts in Moldova may be becoming both more frequent and more severe with the onset of climate change. Rainfall levels vary widely from year to year, and unpredictable rainfall makes it difficult to grow anything but the hardiest of rain-fed, low-risk crops.

MCC is investing in irrigation to take the unpredictability of rainfall out of the equation, allowing farmers to grow high-value crops for export throughout the region even during drought years.  The training of farmers on the use of drip irrigation technology will allow efficient use of the irrigation water and ensure that there remains enough water for irrigation even if future river levels are lower than they are now. 

Studies of climate factors (such as rainfall, temperature and evaporation) and the need to achieve a good return on investment have led MCC to focus on improving efficiencies and productive use of limited water supplies—all necessary ingredients for coping with increased climate variability. Meanwhile, investments are also contributing to rural communities’ ability to adapt and prosper in uncertain times. In this way, MCC is ensuring that vulnerable communities are building resilience and creating opportunities to pull themselves out of poverty.