Water in agriculture


Maintain and increase agricultural production through sustainable water management.


On average, irrigated agriculture worldwide uses 70 percent of the water extracted from surface waters and groundwater. In some developing countries, the figure is as high as 90 percent. Water is becoming increasingly scarce due to climate change. More than 30 countries, mainly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, are threatened by acute water shortages.

The problem is particularly explosive due to the growing world population, for which more and more food has to be produced. The most important approach: water must be managed sustainably. The aim is to achieve higher yields while using the same amount of water or even less. This applies in particular to irrigated agriculture, but rain-fed agriculture must also become more efficient.

The way to this goal is integrated water and soil management. Its task is to control water use so that water is used more effectively, fairly, efficiently and sustainably. Improved water and soil management can help to store water longer and prevent erosion. Small farms in particular benefit from this. If they can produce and sell more, development prospects improve overall: people can feed themselves better, find work and poverty in rural areas decreases. On behalf of the German Federal Government, GIZ advises its partners on water resources and soil management. We are particularly active in these areas:

Resource management

GIZ supports authorities and private user groups in establishing holistic, integrated water resource and soil management, including the management of water catchment areas. The focus is on efficient and sustainable use of water and soil. The GIZ accompanies water law reforms. It adapts tried and tested concepts to local conditions, trains managers, staff and farmers and promotes the use of incentive mechanisms to deal more efficiently with water as a resource.

Adapted techniques

Our goal is to make agricultural operating systems more resilient. We therefore inform our partners about the effects of climate change on agricultural water use and develop adaptation measures together with those affected. GIZ draws on local knowledge, adapted cultivation and irrigation methods, water storage techniques and soil conservation.

Together with its partners, GIZ is developing approaches for adapted, economically sustainable water use and soil conservation in agriculture that take into account the situation of smallholder producers. For example, it establishes water user organizations and marketing communities or advises existing initiatives. It takes particular account of the needs of women and disadvantaged groups, such as nomadic livestock farmers. Traditional rights of access and use are included in the concepts. The overarching goal is distributive justice.

Development of new sources

The GIZ supports the development of new water sources, such as the ecologically and health-compatible use of brackish water or treated wastewater.