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Annex A-4 Murara Irrigation Scheme


Murara irrigation scheme is located in Mutoko District of Mashonaland East Province. It is one of the successful farmer managed schemes. The scheme utilizes water from the Murara Dam to irrigate a variety of high value horticultural crops. The yields for these crops are high, due to high input use. The marketing of most of the crops at Mbare Musika brings very high incomes for the farmers. For example, the 1997 annual incomes ranged between Z$ 15 000 and Z$ 35 000 per farmer. Apart from these high incomes, the scheme also acts as a source of food security for the surrounding communities. The strengths of the scheme are based on good planning, involvement of farmers during planning and construction, excellent group cohesion and effective institutional support. The future of the scheme looks bright with the only problem being the siltation of the dam. However, the responsible authorities are taking steps to address this problem.


Murara irrigation scheme is located in Chimoyo communal area in the Mutoko District of Mashonaland East province. It is located about 30 km east of Mutoko town. The scheme is located in Natural Region IV, a low rainfall area, which receives about 400 mm of rainfall per year on average. The rainfall is not adequate for meaningful crop production, making irrigation a critical investment in the area. The scheme is 18 ha large with 36 plot holders, each holding 0.5 ha. It comprises members from the same village. Murara irrigation scheme is a gravity fed surface irrigation system.

The scheme draws water from Murara Dam, which was constructed in 1975 by the then Government of Rhodesia (GOR). The reasons behind the development of the dam are unclear, but some believe that it was constructed to provide drinking water for both livestock and human beings. Today the dam supports, apart from the irrigation scheme, some eighteen villages. These villages use the dam for livestock watering, brick moulding and other domestic purposes.

Planning of the scheme

The scheme was initiated in 1982 by the Mutoko District Administrator (DA), in liaison with the Katavhinya village kraal head. This particular village was chosen because the soils were suitable for irrigation. Furthermore, the kraal expressed keen interest in the development of the irrigation. The District Development Fund (DDF) was given the responsibility of designing and constructing the scheme with full farmer participation.

The DA asked people to mould bricks for the construction of the project. They were also asked to dig pits for the toilets. The idea of making farmers provide labour was met with mixed reactions. Some of the villagers left, as they feared that they would end up "working for the government". Nearby villagers contributed to this feeling as they asserted that people at Katavhinya were losing their land. (Ironically the same people are now jealous of the irrigators). However, some thirty villagers decided to participate in brick moulding. The DA's Office provided firewood to cure the bricks.

The construction of the scheme was finished in 1983 and it was 9 ha large, with 30 participants each holding 0.3 ha. The participants were taken on study tours to Nyamaropa and Ngondoma irrigation schemes. These visits were quite helpful since they motivated the Murara farmers. In 1991, an extension of the scheme was proposed. Designs were made by AGRITEX for a further 9 ha to make a total of 18 ha for the scheme. Again the DA's Office mobilized people to mould bricks. A further 6 people participated, bringing the number of irrigators to the current 36.

DDF constructed the scheme, with AGRITEX supervision. The plots were reallocated, with each irrigator getting 0.5 ha spread over three blocks to facilitate rotation. In 1993, the whole 18 ha became operational.

Social aspects

Land tenure and inheritance

The Murara farmers are full time irrigators, with no dryland plots. All their labour is devoted to irrigated agriculture. The irrigated plot passes to the surviving spouse if the plot holder dies. If both spouses die, the eldest son takes over. If the son is not available, the plot passes to the next son in line. In a polygamous marriage the plot is divided between the wives, with the husband remaining the registered plot holder. There are six women plot holders on the scheme, whose plots will pass to the children when they die. Some irrigators have divided their plots to accommodate their children.

Relationship with outsiders.

There are conflicts between the irrigators and the villagers outside the scheme on the use and management of the Murara dam. Villagers outside the scheme practice stream bank cultivation and graze their animals in the catchment, leading to erosion upstream of the dam. This is resulting in the siltation of the dam. At one time, some of the responsible people were removed by AGRITEX. However, the problem remains. Villagers in the catchment do not realize the dangers of siltation. This was confirmed by some of the villagers. However steps are being taken to arrest soil erosion and protect the dam wall. DDF has planted some grass on the dam wall to reduce erosion. However, some jealous villagers are reported to have uprooted some of the grass.

The Kraal head does not own a plot in the scheme, since he did not participate in the brick moulding exercise due to injuries. He, however, rents a plot in the scheme. In addition he has 2.5 ha of dryland outside the scheme which he does not cultivate. Most irrigators do not want him in the scheme. However, he tries to work closely with the IMC. In fact, some IMC members sit in his advisory council. The kraal head is working hard to improve the relationship between the scheme and the outside villagers.

Scheme operation, maintenance and management

The scheme is fully farmer managed with support coming from institutions such as AGRITEX, DDF and AFC. Management of the scheme is through the Irrigation Management Committee (IMC) and the kraal head who strives to work closely with the IMC.

Irrigation Management Committee

A 15 member IMC is in place, comprising of 7 women (one of whom is the chairperson) and 8 men. The tenure of the IMC is three years. The IMC is composed of:

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

The IMC is responsible for enforcing the bye-laws, which were formulated by the farmers with AGRITEX assistance. They coordinate the maintenance of the infrastructure. Under the IMC there are four sub-committees namely:

  1. Water sub-committee, which is responsible for water delivery to the scheme, water use in the field well and the maintenance of infrastructure
  2. Transport sub-committee, responsible for organizing transport to markets
  3. Marketing sub-committee, which looks for markets
  4. Security sub-committee, responsible for maintaining order in the scheme

All the sub-committees seem to be effective with the water sub-committee being the most effective.

Water management

Water comes to the scheme from the dam through a 4 km open canal. The closing and opening of this water is the responsibility of one of the water sub-committee members. This seems to be a gender specific task, as women find it difficult to operate the valve. Water is shared among three irrigation groups in the scheme (A to C). Each group has twelve irrigators. At any one time there are two groups irrigating which actually means that a total of 24 people will be irrigating. Farmers irrigate as a group and when one farmer is absent his/her plot is irrigated so as not to disrupt the whole process. When water is scarce, like during the 1991/92 season, irrigators scale down their areas under irrigation. During times of water shortages, outside villagers clamour for the scheme to close down. Some outside villagers illegally take water from the canal to mould bricks and for the irrigation of small gardens along the canals. This inconveniences the irrigators. The irrigators have reported this problem to the police, but up to now nothing has been done.

Repairs and maintenance

The farmers do the maintenance of canals with the IMC coordinating the activities. Other activities carried out are canal repairs and desiltation of the dam. These activities are normally done every Saturday and fines are imposed on those farmers who absent themselves from the maintenance activities. When necessary, farmers are asked to contribute cement and money to replace damaged infrastructure. Siphons are replaced by farmers on an individual basis.

Institutional support


AGRITEX provides technical advice to the scheme. Generally this is adequately covered. However the Extension Worker serves both the irrigators and the dryland farmers and he complained that the workload is too much.


DDF maintains the road and gives advice on the maintenance of the dam.

Agricultural performance

In the 1980s, when the scheme started, grain maize, groundnuts, tomatoes and rape were the major crops grown. Grain maize was grown for subsistence purposes while groundnuts, tomatoes and rape were grown for marketing. They were marketed at Mbare Musika in Harare. In 1993, after the extension of the scheme, new crops were introduced and these were butternut, okra, sweet potatoes, beans, cucumber and paprika. A few fruit trees were also introduced, but most of them have died. The diversification of crops was considered ideal for marketing. High yields have been obtained on the scheme. Average yields for the 1997 cropping season are presented in Table 29. The high yields obtained at Murara scheme are due to the use of recommended levels of fertilizer by the farmers. The farmers also apply a strict rotational system to control soil borne diseases.

Average crop yields under irrigation for the 1997 season at Murara irrigation scheme (Source: Farmers' and Extension Worker's record books, 1998)

Crop Expected yield (tons/ha) Actual yield (tons/ha)
Maize 6 6
Tomatoes 25 28
Butternut 10 9.5
Cucumber 10 11
Okra 9 8.5
Beans 2 1.8

Commercial aspects


All the horticultural crops are mainly marketed at Mbare Musika in Harare. As for green maize, buyers come from places such as Mutoko, Mudzi, Marondera and Harare to buy the crop. They provide their own transport. For horticultural crops farmers either hire transport in groups or they catch buses or heavy vehicles on individual basis. Transport is considered to be expensive.

Input acquisition

Most irrigators purchase inputs in groups from Harare. The truck, which goes with the produce to Mbare, comes back with the inputs. Some of the inputs are bought from local dealers. All inputs are financed by the previous season's proceeds since farmers are not interested in AFC because of high interest rates.

Farm income analysis

In the 1997 season tomatoes were the highest paying crop, followed by butternut. The average incomes obtained from different crops are presented in Table 30. The annual net profit per farmer ranged between Z$ 30 000 - Z$ 70 000 per ha.

Average incomes for different crops during the 1997 season at Murara irrigation scheme (Source: Farmers' and Extension Worker's record books, 1998)

Crop Average gross margin (Z$/ha)
Tomato 120 000
Butternut 41 000
Cucumber 24 000
Okra 19 000
Beans 10 000
Grain maize 5 000

Financial and economic analysis

The financial cash flows for Murara irrigation scheme are presented in Table 31. The cash flows are based on the 1998 prices, which have been deflated at 20% to give their 1982 values. The 1982 prices are then applied throughout as constant market prices, thereby removing the effects of inflation. The investment costs include the construction of the first 9 ha in 1982 and an additional 9 ha in 1991. The results of the analysis indicate that the project is financially viable. The EIRR for the project was calculated to be 50%, revealing that the project is viable from an economic point of view.

Socio-economic impact

The scheme has had some positive impacts on the beneficiaries and the surrounding area. Some of these impacts are as follows.

Increased incomes

The net incomes of Z$ 15 000 - Z$ 35 000 from 0.5 ha are reasonable. These incomes translate to Z$ 1 250 - Z$ 2 917 per farmer per month. The minimum wage of Z$ 1 400 paid in the Zimbabwean industry for unskilled labour is below what most irrigators are getting. If incomes from irrigation are compared with those obtained from dryland, irrigators are better than their dryland counterparts. Dryland farmers usually get a reasonable yield once in every five years. This means they are assured of incomes only during good seasons. And even in good seasons, because of poor yields (1-2 tons/ha for maize) farmers can not have surplus for marketing.

Discounted cash flow analysis for Murara irrigation scheme.

Year Investment Costs (Z$) Drought savings (Z$) Replacement costs (Z$) Repair & Maintenance Costs (Z$) Extension (Z$) Irrigation income (Z$) Incremental benefit (Z$)
1982 58 415           -58 415
1983   1 548   1 500 3 000 29 207 23 160
1984   1 548   1 500 3 000 29 207 23 160
1985   1 548   1 500 3 000 29 207 23 160
1986   1 548 4 500 1 500 3 000 29 207 18 660
1987   1 548   1 500 3 000 29 207 23 160
1988   1 548   1 500 3 000 29 207 23 160
1989   1 548   1 500 3 000 29 207 23 160
1990   1 548   1 500 3 000 29 207 23 160
1991 301 408 1 548 5 600 1 500 3 000 29 207 -283 848
1992   1 548   1 500 3 000 30 1408 295 360
1993   1 548   1 500 3 000 301 408 295 360
1994   1 548   1 500 3 000 301 408 295 360
1995   1 548   1 500 3 000 301 408 295 360
1996   1 548 5 600 1 500 3 000 301 408 289 760
1997   1 548   1 500 3 000 301 408 295 360
1998   1 548   1 500 3 000 301 408 295 360
NPV             635 058
FIRR             45%

Increased yields

The yields in the irrigation scheme are high, as indicated in Table 28. For example, the maize yield of 6 tons/ha under irrigation far exceeds the average dryland yield of 1-2 tons/ha, which is attained only once in every five years. The increased yields indicate that irrigation is good for agricultural development.


Murara irrigation farmers can now grow a variety of crops, which are not possible under dryland conditions. This diversification of crops also means a diversification of diet.

Employment creation

The scheme generates employment for both the irrigators and non-irrigators. Eighty percent of the household heads do not work in towns. They consider irrigation as an important source of income. Non-irrigators get seasonal employment on the scheme to perform activities such as weeding and harvesting. They are paid either money (Z$ 15/day) or are paid in kind. Most of the non-irrigators practice gold panning. Gold panning is not good for the environment. The digging of stream banks leads to soil degradation and subsequent siltation of the rivers. Other off-farm activities for non-irrigators include beer brewing and pottery for women. Irrigators do not practice all these activities. They concentrate on irrigation. This means irrigation is giving them gainful employment.

Protection of the environment

The fact that Murara irrigators do not engage in gold panning means that irrigation can act as a way of conserving the environment.

Food Security

The scheme area is prone to drought such that the surrounding villagers rely on the scheme for grain. With average yields of 6 tons/ha and area under maize being 9 ha, the total production is approximately 54 tons. With an average family size of 4.6, each requiring 420 kg per year, the maize produced on the scheme can feed 129 households. This includes 36 households on the scheme and 93 households from the surrounding villages. This means the scheme acts as a source of food security.

Savings on drought relief

The irrigation project results in food relief savings for the government. While the dryland farmers get food handouts, the irrigators at Murara are not given. For example, if we consider the food requirement of 10 kg of maize per person per month, with an average of 4.6 persons per household, the food which would be required monthly by Murara farmers would be 1 656 kg for the 36 households. This translates to 9 936 kg per year, assuming that food is given for 6 months every year. The value of the maize is Z$ 23 846 400. This figure does not include transport and administrative costs. The above value of maize is what the government will save by not providing drought relief to the Murara irrigators.

Management Skills

Farmers are now able to manage their own affairs, as evidenced by the ability to take care of the operation and maintenance of the scheme. Group work is very important on the scheme and the way scheme operates is entirely different from what the outside villages are doing.


While Murara scheme is performing well there are a number of weaknesses that threaten its viability. Some of them are:

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