More than 200 million people living in dryland regions of Sub-Saharan Africa make their living from agriculture. Most are exposed to weather shocks, especially drought, that can decimate their incomes, destroy their assets, and plunge them into a poverty trap from which it is difficult to emerge. Their lack of resilience in the face of these shocks can be attributed in large part to the poor performance of agriculture on which their livelihood depends. Opportunities exist to improve the fortunes of farming households in the drylands.
Improved farming technologies that can increase and stabilize the production of millet, sorghum, maize, and other leading staples are available. Irrigation is technically and economically feasible in some areas and offers additional opportunities to increase and stabilize crop production, especially small-scale irrigation, which tends to be more affordable and easier to manage. Yet many of these opportunities have not been exploited on a large scale, for reasons that include lack of farmer knowledge, nonavailability of inputs, unfavorable price incentives, high levels of production risk, and high cost.