This paper presents a review of the drainage development needs and prospects in developing countries and of the problems which need to be overcome. A distinction is made between the developments in the temperate, the (semi) arid zone and the (semi) humid zone. It is argued that the low level of attention given to drainage in the past may well have been justified in view of the low level of agricultural development, but, that in some of the more advanced developing countries, further agricultural development may stagnate if no timely investments in improved drainage are made. Improved drainage is also urgently required to arrest the land degradation and production loss caused by waterlogging and salinity in arid zone irrigated lands. Countries for which investment in drainage may not yet be opportune, would seem to be well advised to start building up some core institutional and professional capacity. The roles of government and of international development cooperation are also discussed. Finally, lessons learned and actions needed are identified.