This paper addresses four key questions. What are the irrigation–poverty inequality linkages? Does access to irrigation water matter for rural poverty alleviation? Under what conditions does irrigation have the greatest impact on poverty? What are the pro-poor interventions that can enhance the antipoverty impact of irrigation? Findings from IWMI-led studies and other empirical studies show that: (1) irrigation enables households to improve crop productivity, grow high-valued crops, generate higher incomes and employment, earn a higher implicit wage rate for family labor and, more importantly, benefits the poor and landless through the enhanced availability of food, lower food prices, higher employment and income and other indirect effects; (2) access to irrigation water reduces the incidence and severity of poverty; (3) irrigation's impact on poverty is highest where landholdings are equitably distributed; (4) effective rural poverty alleviation requires that irrigation development be targeted to poor communities; and (5) unequal land distribution is associated with inequitable distribution of agricultural water benefits. We argue that the antipoverty impact of irrigation water can, therefore, be intensified through triggering a set of board and targeted interventions, simultaneously.

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