Irrigation Science

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 299–311 | Cite as

Water productivity in rainfed systems: overview of challenges and analysis of opportunities in water scarcity prone savannahs

  • Johan Rockström
  • Jennie Barron
Water productivity: science and practice


Addressing the Millennium Development Goals on food and poverty over the coming decade puts enormous pressure on the world’s finite freshwater resources. Without water productivity (WP) gains, the additional freshwater in agriculture will amount to 5,600 km3 year−1 in 2050. This is three times the current global irrigation use. This paper focuses on the underlying processes and future opportunities of WP gains in water scarcity prone and poverty stricken savannah regions of the world. The paper studies the consumptive (green) WP dynamics rainfed farming systems, and shows that the often assumed linear relationship between evapotranspiration (ET) and yield (Y) does not translate into constant WP over a wide range of yields. Similarly, crop transpiration (T) and Y show non-linearity under on-farm and low yield conditions. This non-linearity is validated against several on-farm research experiments in semi-arid rainfed farming systems. With integrated soil and water management, focusing on dry spell mitigation and soil fertility can potentially more than double on-farm yields, while simultaneously improve green (ET) WP and productive green (T) WP. Through the adoption of appropriate soil and water management in semi-arid smallholder farming systems, crop yields improve and result in improved livelihoods and WP gains.


Water Productivity Virtual Water Blue Water Supplemental Irrigation Consumptive Water 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stockholm Environment InstituteStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Stockholm Environment InstituteUniversity of YorkYorkUK

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