The 7.5 ha Longdale irrigation scheme is located in Masvingo District of Masvingo Province. This is a scheme whose great potential is being curtailed by technical problems. Having started very well in 1993 the scheme started to perform badly when the scheme's imported submersible pump started giving technical problems. The spare parts for the pump are difficult to source locally and when the pump breaks down it takes several months before it is repaired. The planning of the scheme was done well, with the farmers having participated during the planning and implementation of the scheme. Due to this there is a very strong feeling among the farmers that the scheme belongs to them. The market for this scheme is Masvingo town, which is about 20 km away. If the pump problems are addressed the scheme can be turned into a very successful investment.
The 7.5 ha Longdale irrigation scheme lies in the Mushandike resettlement area of Masvingo District in Masvingo Province. It is located about 20 km south east of Masvingo, in Natural Region III, a low rainfall area with 500-700 mm of rainfall per year on average. The region is characterized by periodic dry spells and mid season droughts, features that make irrigation a worthwhile investment in this area.
The scheme utilizes a pressurized drag-hose sprinkler irrigation system, using a submersible pump to abstract water from a borehole. The scheme supports fifteen plot holders, each with a 0.5 ha plot size. Two of the fifteen plot holders are widows and the rest are married couples. Three male heads of households are working in towns. The scheme membership was drawn from the resettlement area. These people were moved from the nearby Nemanwa area in 1987 to make room for the development of Nemanwa business centre.
The scheme was established in 1993, using Government of Zimbabwe and DANIDA funding through the DANIDA Support to Smallholder Irrigation Programme (SSIP) which ran between 1986 and 1995. The designs were done by AGRITEX and construction was contracted out to a private irrigation company. The scheme was planned and implemented with full farmer participation. Farmers provided labour for trenching and laying down of pipes. This makes Longdale scheme very different from other resettlement irrigation schemes that are developed first before the beneficiaries come in.
Land tenure and inheritance
Longdale farmers are full time irrigators with no extra plots outside the scheme for rainfed agriculture. However farmers feel that their 0.5 ha plots are too small to sustain both subsistence and cash cropping. If a plot holder dies, the plot is inherited by the surviving spouse and the children. The scheme bye-laws designed and formulated by the farmers have a clause which caters for inheritance. Eviction of the remaining family is only done if it seriously violates certain bye-laws and the decision has to be endorsed by the Resettlement Officer.
If the surviving spouse dies, then the eldest son or daughter takes over. The Resettlement Officer will have to endorse the child's suitability for inheritance. The son has no automatic take over and has no say on inheritance. However, a remaining spouse automatically takes over the plot. This system does not go well with the youths, because they feel that they lose out if both parents die. The youth argued that this system should be replaced by the traditional "Nhaka" custom, which dictates that a son has automatic inheritance over his father's property when the father dies.
Irrigation Management Committee
The scheme is completely farmer managed through an IMC with seven members, six of whom are women. At this particular scheme, the chairperson of the IMC is a woman. The committee comprises of a:
The IMC runs the scheme through a system of bye-laws and it seems to be doing very well as evidenced by great cohesion on the scheme and the ability of the farmers to pay electricity bills on time. Any plot holder who fails to pay the electricity bills will be denied access to irrigation water by having valves leading to the farmer's plot from the main line closed.
The IMC is responsible for drawing up the cropping programme, in consultation with AGRITEX and the rest of the farmers. The IMC coordinates all the operation and maintenance activities on the scheme, making sure that all the operations and maintenance schedules are met. In case of emergencies, like when the pump breaks down, the IMC collects money from the individual members for repairs.
Irrigation is done using the irrigation schedules prepared by AGRITEX. Through these schedules farmers know how often to irrigate and for how long. The IMC determines when the farmers should come to irrigate. It is usually between 06.00 and 18.00 hours, depending on the crop. There is one farmer designated for opening and closing the pump. No extra time for irrigation is given for farmers who come late for irrigation. This is done in an attempt to ensure efficient water usage and cut down on energy costs.
The farmers pay electricity bills and so far they have not had any problems in paying. This may be due to the strict system of bye-laws on the scheme. Farmers realize that once they are denied access to irrigation water they will not have any alternative land to cultivate. The monthly bills per farmer range from Z$ 160 to Z$ 450 (1998 bills).
Repairs and maintenance
Farmers are responsible for the maintenance of infrastructure. Each farmer is responsible for the repair, maintenance and replacement of his/her infield infrastructure. These include sprinklers, hydrants, hose pipes and garden tapes. Communally owned equipment, such as the pump, borehole and conveyance pipeline, is maintained by the farmers as a group.
Farmers are having problems with their pump, which frequently breaks down. Once the pump breaks down it will take several months before it is repaired because spare parts for the pump are difficult to source locally, even though the farmers will be having the money to buy spares. This pump was imported from Denmark by DANIDA without any back up spares. In November 1997 the pump broke down and it was only repaired in May 1998 for only Z$ 1 500. Prior to that, it had broken down in May 1997 only to be repaired at the end of June the same year for Z$ 1 096. From the above costs it is clear that the problems are just minor, but according to the farmers a very small problem can lead to the closure of the scheme for more than six months. Another problem with the pump is that once it breaks down it is difficult to lift it from the borehole, as the farmers do not have the equipment to lift the pump from the borehole. They have to hire other people to do it for them and they usually hire private irrigation companies or the nearby Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) estate. These companies charge over Z$ 2 000 for a single lifting done. The problems with the pump have negatively affected a scheme, which has a potential of doing very well.
The scheme is supported by an Extension Worker, who covers both dryland and irrigation. He visits the scheme at least once a week and he offers technical advice on cropping and water management. He receives technical backstopping from the irrigation engineers based at the AGRITEX provincial office in Masvingo. The engineers are responsible for producing irrigation schedules for the scheme.
Farmers received intensive training at the beginning of the scheme, which was run by AGRITEX and AFC. The programme was funded by DANIDA. The training programme covered topics such as production of crops, water management, inputs acquisition, record keeping and loan application. In addition to the course farmers were taken on study tours to other operational smallholder irrigation schemes, namely Hama-Mavhaire, Fuwe Panganayi, Verlos and Marowa irrigation schemes. Currently periodic training programmes are offered by the Extension Worker, sometimes on request and mostly at his own accord after carrying out a training needs analysis.
The scheme started very well in 1993, producing green maize (50% of the area), wheat (50%) in winter, and tomatoes (50%), beans (25%) and rape (20%) in summer. The crops were intensively produced using AFC financed inputs. The average fertilizer levels applied to the different crops during the 1993/94 agricultural season at Longdale are presented in Table 23. These levels match those recommended by AGRITEX.
Fertilizer levels applied at Longdale irrigation scheme during the 1993/94 season (Source: Farmers' and Extension Worker's record books, 1998)
|Crop||Ammonium Nitrate (kg/ha)||Compound D (kg/ha)||Compound L (kg/ha)|
* Compound S. ** Compound C.
As a result of these high input levels farmers managed to get high yields during the 1993/94 season. Yields as high as 7 tons/ha were obtained for maize, with an average of 6.5 tons/ha. Wheat achieved high yields of up to 6 tons/ha with an average of 4.5 tons/ha. Yields for tomatoes averaged 25 tons/ha. Beans yields averaged 1.4 tons/ha. The yields for rape could not be estimated but a good quality crop was reported. Despite these good yields farmers failed to repay their debts to AFC, thus affecting their credit worthiness. This failure to repay the debt was due to poor financial management. Farmers went on to buy a lot of luxury goods ignoring paying back the debt. They had taken the loan as a group and when 20% of the members defaulted the whole group was affected. From 1995 onwards AFC stopped giving credit to these farmers.
The crop yields for the 1995/96 season were poor due to cash flow problems. The situation was worsened by the frequent breakdown of the pump, which at one point in time was down for three months with farmers not irrigating. Farmers claimed that they could not get the spares for their imported pump. They were later helped by a private irrigation company that somehow modified the pump. Yields of as low as 2 tons/ha were recorded for maize during the 1994/95 cropping year. Wheat was attacked by the streak virus, thus worsening the already bad situation. Tomatoes and rape were also affected. In 1996, the situation improved slightly with the pump breakdowns being less frequent. However, inputs remained a major problem. Remittances from town for some of the plot holders could not help much.
In 1997, the situation got critical with the pump breaking down between May and June. Farmers were helped by the nearby Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA), which made yet some more modifications to the pump. The winter crop which had been planted between April and May was affected by moisture stress. Between November 1997 and May 1998 the pump broke down again. Farmers resorted to dryland cultivation, which did not pay because incidentally a severe drought ravaged the area. Farmers only resumed cropping in June 1998, but were affected by cash flow problems. They could not raise enough money for the inputs. During the scheme visit in October 1998 most plots had no crops.
An analysis of the agricultural performance of Longdale scheme indicated that the factors that are affecting negatively the scheme are more to do with planning rather than farmers' attitudes. The problems with the pump seem to be the most important issue affecting the performance of Longdale scheme.
The main market for the produce of Longdale, when it was performing well during the first year, was Masvingo town. The town is only 20 km from the scheme and the two are linked by the excellent Masvingo - Great Zimbabwe tarred highway. The nearby Nemanwa business centre and surrounding villages have been also very important local markets for the produce.
The mode of transport is hired trucks to Masvingo. Smaller quantities of produce are ferried by the farmers to Nemanwa business centre using public transport, which operate between Nemanwa and Masvingo several times a day.
During the first good years Longdale scheme used to demand substantial quantities of fertlizers and chemicals from dealers at Nemanwa business centre and Masvingo town. During this period high levels of inputs were used as the farmers were still eligible for AFC loans and the pump was not giving any problems. This demand of inputs has gone down as the scheme continues to perform badly and with farmers experiencing cash flow problems. At the time of visit some dealers at Nemanwa business centre who used to experience brisk business with the farmers confirmed this marked reduction in demand for agricultural inputs by the scheme.
Incomes for the scheme seem to be correlated to yields. When the scheme started, the incomes were quite high. When the yield performance went down the incomes followed suit. During the 1993/94 season, annual average incomes of Z$ 20 000 per farmer were attained. However during the 1995/96 season low incomes were recorded. The average annual incomes were Z$ 4 000 - Z$ 8 000 per farmer. During the 1996/97 season incomes were reported low, but figures could not be obtained at the time of visit. For the 1997/98 season, figures were not available, but the long period the pump was down with farmers not irrigating is a strong indicator that incomes were bad.
Longdale scheme has been experiencing cash flow problems over the years, especially after 1995. The major reasons advanced for this were:
Financial cash flows for Longdale irrigation scheme are presented in Table 24. All the values are derived from the 1998 prices, which are deflated to reflect the 1993 equivalent values. These constant 1993 values are applied in the discounted cash flow analysis. A rate of 9.75% was considered as the discount rate. The parameters considered in the analysis are the NPV and the FIRR. The NPV was found to be negative, indicating that the project is not viable. The FIRR of 5% is less than the discount rate 9.75% again indicating a non-viable project. The economic analysis gives a NPV of minus Z$ 789 and an EIRR of 7.9%. These figures again reflect that the project is not viable economically.
Discounted cash flow analysis for Longdale irrigation scheme.
|Year||Investment Costs (Z$)||Replacement Costs (Z$)||Repair & Maintenance Costs (Z$)||Extension (Z$)||Irrigation Income (Z$)||Incremental Benefit (Z$)|
|1993||301 408||-301 408|
|1994||30 000||30 000||300 000||240 000|
|1995||30 000||30 000||150 000||90 000|
|1996||2 778||30 000||30 000||60 000||-2 778|
|1997||3 333||30 000||30 000||60 000||-3 333|
|1998||4 000||30 000||30 000||60 000||-4 000|
The scheme started positively in 1993 achieving the targeted yields. For example maize yields of 7 tons/ha for maize were achieved in the scheme. This was a form of transformation from low potential dryland cultivation to a more commercialized type of agriculture. The high levels of inputs, used by the farmers during the 1993/94 season, are a clear indication that farmers were geared for an improved type of farming.
Farmers did not have problems in adopting the technology, as evidenced by their ability to set up an IMC responsible for coordinating all the operation and maintenance works. The high adoption rate and good maintenance are evidenced by the high yields obtained during the first year of operation. High incomes were obtained during the first year and the incomes were much higher than those, which could be obtained under dryland agriculture. Given the limited opportunities for off-farm employment in the Mushandike resettlement area, the scheme was beginning to become a source of employment for the farmers and outsiders.
The installation of an imported pump with no spares readily available locally, however, hampered all the potential the scheme had of transforming the peoples' lives. It should be a lesson to planners that imported material without back-up services should not be included as a package in the development process. Now farmers have developed a wait and see attitude without knowing the future of the scheme. They ask the question: "Can't AGRITEX get us a locally manufactured pump?" With the cash flow problems affecting them, the farmers can not raise money to replace the pump themselves.
The potential the irrigation scheme had of creating employment has been affected. Three male household heads decided to migrate to town to seek for employment. They were tired of the frequent pump breakdowns and unreliable cash inflows. Farmers can not hire outside labour because they are not sure about the performance of their scheme.
The objectives of food security and drought relief savings have not been met by the scheme, save for the first year of operation. According to the farmers irrigation is not giving enough food or money. Farmers are struggling to raise funds to buy grain from their dryland counterparts. Dryland farmers have much bigger plots than irrigators from which they can get reasonable yields during good years. They are therefore more secure in the sense that they can keep the grain for more than one year as a drought mitigation measure. Due to the poor performance of Longdale scheme the irrigators wish they had bigger dryland plots.
The irrigators are on top of the grain loan scheme list being run by the government. In the grain loan scheme the government gives farmers maize during times of drought and it is expected that the farmers must return this maize when they get a good harvest. In October 1998 the irrigators of Longdale were given maize for consumption under this scheme. They do not know when they are going to receive maize again. This grain-loan support was very important for the irrigators since they could not harvest anything in 1997 due to pump breakdowns.
Entrepreneurial skills acquired by the farmers such as record keeping, opening of savings account and budgeting have all been wasted. It is unfortunate that the scheme is not doing well because the enthusiasm the farmers had at the beginning was let down by the quality of pump installed for the scheme. Transporters and input traders who had viewed the irrigation scheme as a major trading partner have not been spared by the declining scheme performance. The quantities of fertilizers that used to be demanded by the scheme have gone down since 1995. The volume of produce that used to be ferried to Masvingo markets has gone down. The linkage, which existed between these partners, has been eroded. There is need to resuscitate Longdale irrigation scheme.
The scheme has a lot of potential, which needs to be strengthened by some interventions. The most important intervention is replacing the current pump with a properly functioning pump. The new pump should have spares and back-up service readily available in the country. This intervention, coupled with a number of strengths that the scheme has, will lead to a viable Longdale irrigation scheme. Some of the strengths revealed by the study are:
Group cohesion: There is strong group cohesion, probably due to the fact that the irrigators came from the same village.
Availability of draught power: Farmers have adequate animals for draught power.
Sense of ownership: Farmers feel that the scheme belongs to them. The fact that farmers participated in the construction of the scheme, is a positive attribute.
Irrigation is valued: The scheme is located in the Natural Region III, which is prone to mid season droughts. This makes irrigation critical. Since irrigation is important, farmers' attitude to the scheme is very positive.