The pieces of the smallholder puzzle:
The add-in role of farmers’ characteristics in irrigation improvement projects in the old lands of Egypt
Irrigation development is essential for reducing vulnerability to water resource scarcity, food insecurity, and climate change impacts in Egypt. The centralized irrigation development must, however, overcome the challenges of the diversity of smallholders and the pre-existing, individualistic irrigation management. The purpose of this paper is to examine the farmers’ characteristics that influence the design and success of irrigation improvement programmes in the Old Lands of Egypt. The paper investigates this issue from the perspectives of farmers by analysing farm features, agricultural practices, irrigation practices, and satisfaction with water services. The clustering method is applied to create farmer groups within the geographical area of the programme and seek consistent differences that affect the outcome of irrigation improvement. The results show that farmers are less diverse in their agrotechnology and more heterogenous in terms of capacities, livelihood sources, and land tenure structures. The article argues that grouping methods to deploy improved irrigation infrastructure should give more consideration to the farmers’ individual features. Programmes intended to replicate such irrigation development or leverage the existing results should address these particularities to create a socially adaptive environment for future irrigation investment in Egypt.