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Mozambique is located on the east coast of southern Africa, and covers an area of 801 590 km² including 13 000 km² of inland water. The total cultivable area is estimated at 36 million ha (45% of the total area). In 1994, the cultivated area was 3.6 million ha, which is 4.5% of the total area and 10% of the cultivable area. According to the eighth article of the Mozambican Constitution, all land is owned by the State.

Basic statistics and population

Area of the country 1994 80 159 000 ha
Cultivable land 1993 36 000 000 ha
Cultivated land 1986 3 600 000 ha
Total population 1994 15 527 000 inhab.
Population density 1994 19 inhab./km²
Rural population 1990 73 %
Water supply coverage    
Urban population 1993 33 %
Rural population 1993 30 %

Total population (1994) is estimated at 15.5 million. In 1990, 27% was urban against only 19% in 1985. Average population density is 19.4/km². The annual demographic growth rate was 2.6% in 1986.

The agricultural sector accounts for about 40-50% of the GDP, employs close to 85% of the labour force, and generates around 90% of export earnings. Between 1981 and 1986, GDP declined at about 8% annually, and agricultural production in 1986 was approximately 75% of the level in 1981. In 1986, 93% of the agricultural population was working in the family sector, 5% in the private sector, and 2% in the cooperative sector.

Climate and water resources

Average precipitation is 969 mm per year, but varies between 327 mm in Pafuri (in the southwest) and 2 611 mm/year in Gurue, in the mountainous part of the northern provinces. The rainy season is between October and April, during the warm season.

Mozambique is located at the end of several major international southern African rivers, the Zambezi and Limpopo being among the most important ones. The global water resources are estimated at 216 km³ per year, of which 100 km³ are generated internally.


Water balance

Water resources:      
Average precipitation   969 mm/yr
    776.7 km³/yr
Internal renewable water resources - total   100.0 km³/yr
Internal renewable water resources - per caput 1994 6 440 m³/yr
Global renewable water resources   216.0 km³/yr
Dependency ratio   53.7 %
Total dam capacity 1987 44.6 km³
De-salinated water 1990 0.1 10 6 m³/yr
Water withdrawal:      
- Agricultural 1992 540 10 6 m³/yr
- Domestic 1992 53 10 6 m³/yr
- Industrial 1992 12 10 6 m³/yr
Total   605 10 6 m³/yr
per caput 1992 39.0 m³/yr
as % of internal renewable water resources   0.6 %
Other withdrawal   - 10 6 m³/yr
Produced   - 10 6 m³/yr
Treated 1987 0 10 6 m³/yr
Re-used treated wastewater 1987 0 10 6 m³/yr

Irrigation and drainage

Irrigation potential 1994 3 300 000 ha
1. Full or partial control Irrigation: equipped area 1993 106 710 ha
- surface irrigation   - ha
- sprinkler irrigation   - ha
- micro-irrigation   - ha
% of area irrigated from groundwater   - %
% of area irrigated from surface water   - %
% of equipped area actually irrigated 1993 42 %
2. Spate irrigation area   - ha
3. Equipped wetland and inland valley bottoms   - ha
4. Other cultivated wetland and inland valley bottoms   - ha
5. Flood recession cropping area   - ha
Total water managed area (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5) 1993 106 710 ha
- as a % percentage of cultivated area   3.0 %
- increase over last 10 years   - %
- power irrigated area as % of water managed area   - %
Full or partial control schemes: Criteria      
Large schemes > 200 ha 1993 70040 ha
Medium schemes 1993 28 200 ha
Small schemes < 30 ha 1993 8 470 ha
Total number of households in irrigation   -  
Irrigated crops:      
Total irrigated grain production   - t
as a % of total grain production 1994 2 %
Harvested crops under irrigation   - ha
- rice 1994 18 000 ha
- sugar cane 1987 13 000 ha
- maize 1994 10 000 ha
    - ha
Drainage - Environment:      
Drained area   - ha
as a % of cultivated area   - %
Flood-protected area   - ha
Area salinized by irrigation 1993 2 000 ha

In 1987, the total capacity of the 12 large dams was 44.64 km³ Water allocation from these reservoirs is shared as follows: 3.90 km³ (9%) for irrigation, 0.01 km³ for water supply, and 40.73 km³ (91%) for hydropower. The Cahora Bassa dam, on the Zambezi, is the largest hydro-electric plant in southern Africa, with an installed capacity of 2 060 MW and a storage capacity of 39.2 km³ i.e., 88% of all dam storage capacity. In 1971, 583 small dams (of which 90 % were for irrigation or livestock watering) were registered, with a total volume of 60 million m³ It is believed that most of them have been destroyed during the war.

Total water withdrawal was 0.605 km³ in 1992, of which 12.7% was groundwater extraction (Figure 1).


There is no long tradition of farmer irrigation management in Mozambique. Thirty years ago, the Total water managed area was about 8 000 ha. After independence, irrigation was developed in State farms for the cultivation of sugar cane and rice. Family sector irrigation is mainly focused on food crops, such as rice.

The irrigation potential is estimated to be 3 300 000 ha, 61% of which lies in the Zambezi river basin, which represents 9% of the cultivable area.

The areas equipped for full or partial control irrigation are estimated at 106 700 ha (1993) (3.2% of the irrigation potential), divided into small schemes (less than 30 ha), medium scale (30-200 ha) and large schemes (Figure 2). The total land actually irrigated is estimated to cover an area of 45 000 ha, i.e., 42% of the equipped area (Figure 3). The main irrigated crops are rice, sugar cane, maize and citrus. Areas planted with sugar cane are reported to have decreased substantially in recent years. In most irrigation schemes, surface water is used, mostly rivers, and, to a much smaller extent, lakes. Basin irrigation for rice, and furrow irrigation for maize and vegetables, are practiced. Sprinkler irrigation is widespread, especially in the sugar cane and cotton areas.

FIGURE 1: Water withdrawal (total: 0.605 km³ in 1992)

FIGURE 2: Types of full or partial control irrigation schemes (1993)

FIGURE 3 Areas equipped for full or partial control irrigation. divided into area actually irrigated and area not irrigated

All kinds of irrigation systems can be found in Mozambique, from large multi-user (30 000 ha) to small individual (I ha) schemes, from large industrial schemes to subsistence, family-owned irrigation plots. In the large schemes, where commercial and family sector irrigation co-exist, water management is almost non-existent. Hydraulic structures do not function, large administrative management bodies have been set up to run the schemes and there is almost no physical possibility of water control. In Chokwe, one of the major irrigation schemes (27 000 ha), complete rehabilitation of the main and secondary canals will be necessary before any efficient water management can take place. Investment for rehabilitation of the Chokwe scheme is estimated at about $US 45 million. There is a lot to do in terms of organization of small farmers in the family sector (water users associations).


The institutions involved in water and irrigation development are:

With the assistance of UNDP and UNDTCD, the water law was prepared and enacted in 1991. It is based on a river basin approach towards water management. According to the law, water is property of the State, as well as hydraulic structures of public interest.


Given its geographical situation and the importance of water management in the rivers of the south, Mozambique is interested in improving cooperation at international level for river basin management.

A National Irrigation Development Master Plan Study was concluded in 1993 and submitted for approval to the Government. It covers five of the most important river basins of southern and central Mozambique: Umbelezi, Incomati, Limpopo, Buzi and Pungoe. In total, rehabilitation and extension of existing schemes would cover an area of 105 000 ha for a bulk investment cost of $US 248 million. Including rehabilitation of existing dams, the total would reach $US 328 million. Supporting measures (training, rural credit, institutional strengthening) are estimated at about $US 13.5 million. The period for implementation of the Master Plan would be 12 years.

As the areas equipped for irrigation are under-utilized, the priority is to rehabilitate existing schemes, if possible, taking into account the new institutional and economic environment before developing new projects.


Direcção nacional de agues. 1994. Actual situation of water management in Mozambique. Report No. 32/94. Ministerio de Construcção e Aguas.

Direcção nacional de agues. 1995. Proposal for a National Water Policy. Preliminary version. Ministerio de Construcção e Aguas.

FAO. 1987. Capacitation y extension de los tecnicas de riego y drenaje. Technical report prepared project GCP/MOZ/031/SPA by J. Hernandez, A. Sanchez, & J. Cruz Roche.

FAO. 1985. Irrigation and drainage in Mozambique: An overview of the situation in 1985. Technical report prepared by L.F. Noort for UNDP/FAO project MOZ/81/015, Natural resources survey and land evaluation. Rome.

Ferro, B.P., & Bouman, D. 1987. Hydrogeological map of Mozambique. Ministry of Construction and Water/UNICEF.

Sogreah-Hidrogest. 1993. National Irrigation Development Master Plan. Final Report.

UNESCO/UNDP. 1984. Present situation of water resources management in Mozambique. UNDP/UNESCO project MOZ/81/001. National Water Directorate, Maputo.

World Bank. 1988. Mozambique agricultural sector survey. Report 7094 MOZ. Washington DC.

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