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Annex A-1 Chitora Irrigation Scheme


The 9 ha Chitora irrigation scheme is located in Mutoko District of Mashonaland East Province. It is one of the most successful farmer managed irrigation schemes in the country. Started in 1994, the scheme has had significant positive impact on the living standard of the participants. Before the scheme started the participants, whose ages ranged between 22 and 27 years, were still living with their parents. They had nothing for themselves and they depended on their parents for almost everything. Today, however, they are getting net incomes as high as Z$ 100 000 per farmer per year (1997 incomes) with an average of Z$ 60 000. These incomes are much higher than the minimum wage of Z$ 16 800 per year paid for an unskilled labourer in the Zimbabwean industry. The good performance of the scheme is due to the fact that the farmers have a sense of ownership and believe that the scheme belongs to them. The farmers were asked to participate during the planning and implementation of the scheme. The operation and maintenance of the scheme is good and cooperation among the farmers is excellent. All these factors have contributed towards the good performance of the scheme.


Chitora irrigation scheme is located in Mutoko District of Mashonaland East Province. It was established in 1994, using funding from the Government of Zimbabwe and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA). The area of the scheme is 9 ha with 18 plot holders, each having 0.5 ha. It is located 120 km North East of Harare and about 5 km from the Harare-Nyamapanda main road. The project is in Natural Region III, a relatively low rainfall area, which receives on average 500-700 mm of rainfall per year.

The scheme utilizes a drag-hose sprinkler irrigation system with water being pumped from a pick-up weir on the Chitora river. The farmers are fully responsible for all the operation and maintenance of the scheme. AGRITEX provides the extension services required. Chitora is one of the best schemes in the country. In 1998 it was judged the best smallholder scheme in the country in a national smallholder irrigation schemes competition, organized annually by AGRITEX.

Planning of the scheme

The irrigation scheme is located in Nyadire resettlement area. People were resettled into the area in 1984 from places around Mutoko District. The resettled farmers engaged in dryland crop production, which was heavily affected by harsh climatic conditions. On realizing the constraints posed by unfavourable weather conditions in the resettlement, AGRITEX and other government institutions initiated an intensive project identification process. FAO and DANIDA gave a lot of support in this process of project identification. Land to the north of a weir on Chitora river was identified as irrigable. In 1990, an AGRITEX/FAO team approached farmers in villages 10, 12 and 13 to find out if they were interested in the development of an irrigation project. Most of the older farmers were scared of the high labour demanded by irrigation. The farmers felt they were too old to engage in irrigated agriculture. However, the refusal by elders to adopt irrigation did not mean the failure of the project. Children of the old resettlement farmers, at that time aged between 22 and 27 years, expressed their willingness to take up the project, which had been turned down by their parents. Eighteen youngsters came forward to participate in the project. Sixteen of these youths had four years of secondary education, but employment in towns was not forthcoming. All of them were staying with their parents and did not have land of their own to cultivate. They depended on their parents for everything.

The idea of giving these youngsters a project was accepted by AGRITEX and the then Department of Rural Development (DERUDE). They accepted because they had witnessed the success of a nearby irrigation scheme which was being run by youths. The youngsters were taken on a study tour to that scheme and they were all convinced that irrigation was an important investment.

In 1991, an AGRITEX team carried out topographic and socio-economic surveys with full farmer participation. The designs were made during the same year and in 1992 the project was tendered out for construction. In 1993 construction started and the scheme started operating in 1994. Inputs for the first season were provided and thereafter farmers had to source their own inputs. Farmers provided labour during scheme construction. The youths were all single when the scheme started and they depended on hired labour for scheme operations. Their parents provided draught power.

Social aspects

Land tenure and inheritance

The tenure system is such that if the plot holder dies, the wife will take over the plot. This is covered in the bye-laws of the scheme. However, the question of what happens when both spouses die is not clear, since most of the scheme members' children are still too young. No child is over five years of age. Farmers said that this was never looked at. The IMC is responsible for all matters concerning inheritance on the scheme. Neither the Resettlement Officer nor the AGRITEX officers interfere with the IMC on such matters. Farmers are all comfortable with the bye-laws. The fact that they are all married now makes the inheritance system much more important.

Relationship with outsiders

All farmers came from villages 10, 12 and 13 and these villages happen to be adjacent to the scheme. Irrigators have no problem with the non-irrigators since they are their parents. There is a good working relationship between these two groups of people. Non-irrigators provide labour in the scheme for money or agricultural produce. At the beginning of the scheme, villagers used to hire out draught power to irrigators for a fee. Currently most of the irrigators have acquired oxen of their own for draught power.

Scheme operation, maintenance and management

Irrigation Management Committee

The scheme is entirely farmer managed through a system of bye-laws which are enforced by an IMC elected on a two year term basis. The IMC comprises of the following members:

  1. Chairperson and vice chairperson
  2. Secretary and vice chairperson
  3. Treasurer
  4. Two committee members
  5. Member responsible for security

There are no women in the committee. Women are not considered as plot holders and this has something to do with how the scheme originated. At scheme inception the plot holders were eighteen single men and their committee was selected out of these. When they got married, they did not want to involve women in the day to day running of the scheme. The male farmers feel that women can not cope with the demands of scheme management.

The IMC is responsible for coordinating all scheme activities. These include collection of electricity payments from individual farmers, repair and maintenance works and collection of monthly subscriptions for the savings account. The committee is also responsible for maintaining discipline in the scheme. Reallocation of plots is also the responsibility of the IMC. The IMC of this scheme is very strong as evidenced by the group cohesion in the scheme. In addition to be above functions, the IMC acts as a link between the farmers and institutions serving them.

Under the IMC there is a production sub-committee. This sub-committee reports directly to the IMC. It is composed of a chairman, secretary and treasurer and is elected on a two-year term basis. The sub-committee organizes cropping programmes and transport for taking the produce to markets. It also acts as a marketing committee giving advice on price movements and sourcing for contract markets. Disease and pests control in the scheme is another function of the production sub-committee. The committee ensures that pests and disease control is adequate in the scheme and any violators are heavily fined.

Water management

Water management and efficient water use are of importance at Chitora irrigation scheme. Farmers acknowledged that they receive a lot of support from AGRITEX on water management. Visual crop inspection is used to determine when to irrigate. The main thrust is to save water, giving enough at the same time. Farmers set irrigation times according to the AGRITEX advise. One farmer is designated to open and close the water. Late comers are not given extra time to irrigate. The state of the fields indicated that there is no water wasting on this scheme. This is good for the farmers given the escalating energy costs.

Electricity bills

Bills are received every month and the IMC collects money from the individual farmers. For the 1998 season the bills ranged between Z$ 150 and Z$ 300 per farmer per month with an average of Z$ 200. Farmers have no problems with the payment of these bills as their sound cash flows allow them to pay the bills as they come.

Repairs and maintenance

Each individual farmer is responsible for the maintenance of his infield infrastructure. This includes hydrants, hoses, tripods and sprinklers. The pumping unit is maintained by the farmers as a group. If the pump breaks down the IMC quickly collects money from the members for repairs. For example in July 1998 the motor got burnt and the farmers raised Z$ 4 900 for the repairs. More that 50% of this amount was drawn from the scheme maintenance fund, in which farmers contribute Z$ 30 per month each. Some farmers are able to do some minor repairs. The contractor who installed the pump when the scheme started trained them.

Replacement of any capital item is the responsibility of the farmers. Farmers are quite happy with this arrangement. They do not want the government to manage their affairs. They said that the government takes time to correct any problems.


The scheme employs a security guard who is paid Z$ 600 per month. The guard was engaged following a spate of robberies in the scheme and vandalism on the pump.

Institutional support


AGRITEX provides technical advice to the irrigators. There is an Extension Worker who supports both the dryland and irrigation farmers. He is also the Extension Worker for the nearby Nyaitenga irrigation scheme. Farmers were pleased with his contributions.

Local Government

The Ministry of Local Government is represented by a Resettlement Officer who works very well with the irrigators. He does not interfere with the day to day running of the scheme. He only deals with administrative matters concerning the whole resettlement area.


The local Extension Worker organized a course on the basics of irrigated crop production and water management for the farmers when the scheme started. DANIDA also financed another course that was run by AGRITEX staff from the Provincial Office and Head Office. Two farmers were also sent on a course on pump maintenance by DANIDA when the scheme started.

Agricultural performance

A variety of crops are grown at Chitora. There is no rigid cropping programme, the programme is dictated by the market. It is the responsibility of the production sub-committee to scan the market and find out the most profitable crops at a particular time. Their cropping pattern is based on the principle of diversification to reduce risk associated with price variations and market uncertainties. The major crops grown on the scheme are leafy vegetables, cabbage, onion, butternuts, green maize, groundnuts, tomatoes, peas, butternut, green pepper, carrots, cucumber, and beet root. One crop may be grown this year, but fail to be considered next year. Each farmer selects a mixture of crops he thinks is best, depending on the information from the production committee and his own personal inclination.

The important thing to note about the cropping programme at Chitora is that it consists mainly of high value horticultural crops. Non horticultural crops such as maize and groundnuts are sold while still green to realize substantial returns. Grain maize is not included in the programme, because the farmers argue that it is cheaper to buy it elsewhere than to produce it. The argument is based on the principle of opportunity cost. Its better to put say 0.3 ha under tomatoes for a period of four months, get high incomes, say Z$ 30 000, and then buy 20 x 50 kg bags of maize for subsistence at Z$ 2 400. This leaves the farmer with over Z$ 27 000. The cropping intensity on the scheme is about 300%. Crop yields are very high (Table 20).

Average yields for different crops during the 1997 season at Chitora irrigation scheme (Source: Farmers' record books and extension staff, 1998)

Crop Yield (tons/ha)
Tomatoes 40
Peas 7
Green pepper 8
Groundnuts 4
Green maize 35 000*
Cucumber 10
Rape 25

* Yield is in cobs

Farmers stagger their crops in such a way that at any one point there is a crop being marketed. This ensures continuous inflow of cash, which makes it easier for the farmers to pay the monthly electricity bills. The yields shown in Table 20 are high and they compare very well with yields obtained by commercial farmers. This means that the Chitora farmers have become highly commercialized. These high yields are a result of high levels of inputs, commitment on the part of the farmers, AGRITEX support and efficient water management. The input levels used at Chitora for various crops are shown in Table 21. The levels are within the recommended levels.

Commercial aspects


The major market for Chitora scheme is Mbare Musika in Harare, which absorbs most of the horticultural crops. Farmers harvest during the day, hire a truck and leave for Mbare Musika around 19.00 hours. They sleep at Mbare Musika and start selling at 06.00 hours the following day when the market opens. Prices at the market are a function of supply and demand for the day. Some buyers come to buy at the scheme using their own transport. Green maize is an example of a crop, which is marketed at the farm-gate. Farmers are willing to be assisted to enter export markets.

Fertilizer levels for different crops at Chitora irrigation scheme. (Source: Farmers' record books and extension staff, 1998)

Crop Ammonium Nitrate (kg/ha) Compound D (kg/ha) Compound S/L (kg/ha)
Green maize 400 400 500 
Cucumber 100 550 600
Peas 100 500  
Green pepper 100 500  
Butternut 100    
Rape 500    


The mode of transport is hired trucks which cost about Z$ 1 500 for a trip to Harare. Most transporters shun Chitora scheme because of the bad feeder road. Sometimes, some transporters do not fulfil their promises forcing the farmers to use long distance haulage trucks, which requires on the spot arrangements between the driver and the farmer. Sometimes the transporters are unreliable making it difficult for the farmers to handle the harvested perishables.

Input acquisition

Inputs such as fertilizer, lime and most chemicals are acquired locally. A hardware shop in village 10 and the corner store business centre are the major suppliers of inputs. Harare is the only source of seed for horticultural crops. All inputs are financed from crop proceeds. Farmers are not interested in AFC loans because of high interest rates.


Irrigators' families are still too small, with an average number of two children. All the children are not yet going to school. The age indicates that they can not provide any form of labour. Husband and wife alone can not provide adequate labour on the scheme. Hired labour is therefore drawn from a radius of more than 7 km. The hired labour helps with weeding, transplanting and harvesting. The plot holders do the marketing themselves and in most cases it is men who go to the markets.

Farm income analysis

Chitora farmers get very high incomes from irrigated cropping. In an interview with the farmers, net incomes from Z$ 40 000 to Z$ 100 000 per year per farmer were revealed. They attributed these high figures to the choice of crops. Tomatoes, for instance, can give over Z$ 150 000 gross income per ha.

At the time of visiting the scheme, the chairman was found harvesting green pepper, which was grown on 0.1 ha. The farmer was paid Z$ 4 100 on the spot by a private buyer. The farmer had sold another Z$ 4 000 worth of green pepper the previous week. He was expecting 2 -3 more harvests which was going to give him more or less the same income. The expressions on the chairman's face indicated that he was very happy with the income.

Another farmer had harvested 800 bundles of rape and was anticipating a price of Z$ 20 per bundle. This means getting Z$ 16 000 on one marketing day.

Financial and economic analysis

Farm cash flows are always on the positive side because of the farmers cropping strategies. The cropping intensity of 300%, supported by the staggering of plantings, ensures that inflows are realized almost everyday. The ability of the farmers to meet costs as they come is an indication of a viable project. Measures of project worthiness and the cash flows are presented in Table 22. The FIRR of 85% indicates a very viable project. The NPV is also significantly high. The EIRR of 90% indicates that the project is very important for the national income.

Discounted cash flow analysis for Chitora irrigation scheme

Year Investment Cost (Z$) Energy Costs (Z$) Drought savings (Z$) Replace-ment Costs (Z$) Repair & maintenance (Z$) Extension (Z$) Irrigation income (Z$) Incremental benefit (Z$)
1994 72 164             -625 000 
1995 72 164 2 083 41 250   8 981 130 000 534 722 664 074 
1996 72 164 2 083 41 250   8 981 130 000 611 111 664 074 
1997 72 164 2 083 41 250   8 981 130 000 687 500 664 074 
1998 72 164 2 083 41 250 4 900 8 981 130 000 763 889 659 175 
NPV               230 947 
FIRR               85%

Socio-economic impact

If the textbook definition of development were taken into account (i.e. change or the process of economic and social transformation), then the Chitora farmers would be described by this definition. They have undergone a complete change or overhaul in the history of their lives. They have changed from dependent sons to independent household heads. They have left the habit of begging money from parents for cigarettes to that of assisting their parents on monetary problems. They moved from the state of being fed by parents to that of feeding the surrounding people. All these are indicators of development.

When these irrigators started they had absolutely nothing of their own, but now they boast of having their own families. They are now all married. Money for dowry was derived from the irrigation scheme. All the irrigators own at least an animal with an average of three cattle per plot holder. It is important to note that these animals were not acquired out of non-farm incomes, but they are the products of irrigation proceeds. Almost all farmers have managed to buy ploughs, harrows cultivators and scotch carts (owned by 90% of the farmers). Self-esteem is the best definition for this state of affairs.

All basic needs such as housing, food and clothing come from the scheme. Sixteen farmers have managed to build brick walled, asbestos roofed houses. One of these farmers has a six-roomed house. Two farmers are in the process of building four roomed houses. Aerials for televisions can be seen as one moves along the road from Corner store business centre towards the irrigation scheme. The exact number of farmers with TVs could not be established, but it is believed that at least five have TV sets in their homes. The houses are fully furnished.

Women expressed their appreciation of the project by saying that they managed to buy utensils such as pots, cups and plates. One of the women said that with her utensils she can make tea for 30 people and make them drink all at once. Men boasted of having bought suits and shoes among other things. They are no longer drinking opaque beer as they used to do. They do not have to ask others to buy them beer.

The hiring of labour by the irrigators is very important for the surrounding villagers. This fits well with the concept of income distribution. Hired labour is paid Z$ 20/day for hoeing and Z$ 15/day for harvesting. These rates are more than those charged in commercial farmers (Z$ 10 on average).

None of the irrigators is engaged in off-farm activities to raise cash. They are satisfied with returns from irrigation enterprises and all of them indicated that they would not want to work in towns. They gave a simple but legitimate calculation in their argument. It went as follows:

With them being non-skilled workers they would not expect any salary more than Z$ 2 000/month if they work in towns. This is far below the Z$ 3 600 - Z$ 8 300/month they get in the scheme. Even if they could get Z$ 4 000 in town they could not be compared with irrigators. In town, with that Z$ 4 000, one has to pay rent, say Z$ 600 for two rooms, bus fare of Z$ 500/month and food for Z$ 1 000. This leaves him with an effective income of Z$ 1 900. If the net income of Z$ 4 000 is obtained at the scheme, he does not buy food (except breakfast), no bus fare and nor rent leaving him with over Z$ 3 000 for banking. This comparison indicates that a person at the scheme is better off than one in town. So there is no point migrating to town.

This was a very strong argument and it is quite sensible. The irrigators have become employers in their own right.

The diversification of crops at the scheme means a diversification of diet for the irrigators and surrounding villagers. Crops hitherto unknown to the non-irrigators are now being produced at the scheme.

Local dealers such as those at the Corner store business centre and the hardware shop near the scheme are all benefiting a lot from the scheme. The demand for agricultural inputs is mainly from the scheme. Sometimes the dealers are faced with problems in meeting the demand of inputs from Chitora and other nearby irrigation schemes. One interesting thing to note is that the hardware shop only started operating after the scheme. Before that dryland farmers were relying mainly on the Corner store business centre for their input requirements. When one gets to Corner store business centre he or she is met by a large number of women retailers, selling vegetables, green maize and all sorts of fresh produce. Most of this produce is acquired from Chitora irrigation scheme and other schemes in the area. All these are examples of backward and forward linkages provided by the scheme.


Chitora is indeed a successful scheme. It derives its success from a number of factors, of which the following were found to be the main ones:

Good planning: The involvement of farmers in the planning and implementation of an irrigation project instills a sense of ownership in them.

Irrigation is valued: The climatic limitations on agriculture make irrigation very important in the area.

Financial support: The inputs given to the farmers at the start of the scheme allowed them to take off without any bank liabilities. This helped them to build sound cash flows.

Strong Irrigation Management Committee: The ability of the IMC to mobilize financial resources for electricity and maintenance of the scheme makes it successful.

Efficient use of water: The ability of the IMC to manage water result in high yields and lower energy costs.

Independence: The non-involvement of the Resettlement Officer in the affairs of the scheme makes the irrigators feel secure.

Land tenure: The system of inheritance that is in place makes farmers comfortable about the future of their spouses and children.

Diversification: Diversification of enterprises reduces the risk of fluctuating prices and income variability.

Group cohesion: The spirit of togetherness, which prevails in the scheme, puts them in a position to face challenges as they come.

Training: The training and support offered by AGRITEX and DANIDA boosted the farmers' technical knowledge.

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