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Annex A-6 Ngezi Mamina Irrigation Scheme


Ngezi Mamina irrigation scheme is located in Kadoma District of Mashonaland West Province. It is one of the schemes, which have failed to achieve the intended primary objective of improving the standard of living of the people. The scheme started operating in 1994 and since then the farmers have obtained very little income. The cropping pattern is restricted to low value crops such as wheat, beans and grain maize, with very little horticultural crops being grown. Farmers view the scheme as belonging to the government and as such they do not want to take over the operation and maintenance. The infield irrigation designs are said to be sub-standard and this makes water management difficult. There is conflict between farmers and various institutions serving them, a situation that does not promote the smooth operation of the scheme. Draught power is a problem and most farmers do not use inputs, resulting in very low yields. The electricity bill is always too high and this is partly blamed on the inappropriate designs. A lot of work on technical, social, institutional, managerial and financial issues need to be done to transform this scheme into a viable one.


Ngezi Mamina irrigation scheme lies in the Mhondoro communal area, in Kadoma District of Mashonaland West Province. The scheme is 216 ha large and it consists of 154 plot holders, of whom 139 have 1.5 ha plots and 15 have 0.5 ha each.

The scheme is about 130 km south west of Harare town and located in Natural Region III, a relatively low rainfall area with an average rainfall of 300-700 mm per year. The scheme has a sprinkler system in which water is first pumped into a balancing tank at a high point and then fed into the sprinkler system by gravity. The water source is the nearby Mamina dam, which is located at the boarder of Mashonaland East and West Provinces. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) operates and maintains the dam and the associated infrastructure up to the field edge. AGRITEX operates and maintains the infield infrastructure. The Rural District Council (RDC) is the legal owner of the land upon which the scheme is sited.

Planning of the scheme

The irrigation scheme was identified in the early 1990s and the idea was to have it constructed simultaneously with the Mamina dam. The funding was provided by the German funding agency Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and the planning of the scheme was done by Halcrow Consultants, a local consulting company. AGRITEX took part in the mobilization of the farmers. At first, farmers were strongly against the project. They thought that they were going to loose their land to the government. They also argued that they were not consulted in the identification of the irrigable lands. Of major concern to them was the issue of land for their children. By loosing their lands to irrigation, their children were going to loose out. This argument originated from the fact that children inherit or are given a portion of parents' fields for cultivation. The development of the irrigation scheme was going to make this impossible, according to the farmers. Farmers also had the impression that they were going to be used as unpaid government workers

A series of meetings were held between 1991 and 1993 in an effort to convince farmers to accept the project. They were taken on study tours to see how farmers in other irrigation schemes in the country were benefiting from irrigation. The farmers later accepted the project, but they were still suspicious about the whole programme.

In 1992 designs were produced by the consultants and in 1993 construction of the scheme started. Farmers were hired as casual labour. However, each farmer was tasked to clear his/her own plot. Plots were allocated by AGRITEX. The completion of scheme construction preceded the formation of an IMC, an indication that farmer participation during scheme establishment and plot allocation was limited. The allocation of plots by AGRITEX drew people from three surrounding villages, civil servants, local authorities and schools. According to the AGRITEX officials who allocated the plots, irrigation plots were given to civil servants after most of the surrounding villagers refused to join the scheme. The allocation to civil servants was done as a last resort to have all the plots occupied. Some farmers opposed this allocation of plots to civil servants and other employed people. However, they had little influence to change this. In 1994, the scheme became operational. From the beginning, a lot of social problems affected the scheme negatively.

Social aspects

Land tenure and inheritance

From the beginning most of the farmers who lost their land to irrigation were not happy with the system of plot allocation. These people who used to own what is now the irrigation scheme, felt that they "lost" their land to outsiders even though each family was allocated a 1 or 1.5 ha plot. To worsen the situation, the so called `outsiders' have not given up their dryland plots for redistribution, despite the fact that this was a precondition for them to be allocated irrigation plots. According to the farmers, the District Council and local leadership have ignored this problem. It is also alleged that a group of powerful local leaders and civil servants acquired plots under conditions described by farmers as unfair, given that unmarried sons of the displaced families, single mothers and widows were all denied plots at the beginning of the scheme.

However, the present irrigators appear to be divided as to why outsiders were allowed to join the scheme. One group of farmers (believed to be the displaced families whose land went into irrigation) claim that the selection criteria deliberately created an artificial shortage of plot holders to accommodate outsiders. The other group (believed to be the outsiders) claim that some people opted out thinking that they would be used as government workers in the scheme. According to the latter group it is these doubting people who are now coming back to demand land after realizing the benefits of irrigation.

This situation of land ownership has caused problems at the scheme. The kraal head on his own initiative evicted 26 `outsiders' from the scheme and replaced them with 75 plot holders who included young people and widows who had been denied entry into the scheme at the beginning. This means some plots in the scheme are now less than the designed 0.5 ha or 1.5 ha, which can make water management difficult.

There is no clear policy on plot inheritance in case the plot holder dies. From the study it seemed there are several powerful individuals who can easily decide who will get the vacant plot to suit their selfish interests.

Scheme operation, maintenance and management

Irrigation Management Committee

The scheme is government managed with the assistance of the IMC. The IMC is composed of the following:

  1. Chairperson and vice chairperson
  2. Secretary and vice chairperson
  3. Treasurer
  4. Five committee members

Under the IMC there are seven block sub-committees and a marketing sub-committee. Members of the IMC are drawn from all block sub-committees. Of the ten IMC members, three are women. This means that some blocks do not have women for enforcing the bye-laws. Members of block sub-committees basically carry out the functions of the IMC within each block. The marketing sub-committee comprises two members from each block. It does not compose of any women members. Its mandate is to source for inputs, service providers, transport, finance, information on new crops and markets. The sub-committee has managed to source markets for only a few crops.

Generally, the IMC is considered to be working well with the scheme members. The IMC has been in office since 1994 and it was voted back in to office again in 1996 at the end of its two-year term. It is believed that the IMC was voted back because it is strong and efficient.

Water management

Proper water management is not considered important at Ngezi Mamina irrigation scheme. Farmers do not know how much to apply. Symptoms of over-irrigation were apparent at this scheme. The IMC doesn't seem to take initiatives to control the use of water. Some farmers are reported to have their sprinklers operating for up to 48 hours in one position at peak demand instead of about 12 hours as per the design. The fact that farmers are not responsible for paying electricity and water seems to be the reason why they are so careless with water. In the event that farmers start paying for water and electricity it is most likely that they will start using the water carefully

Electricity bills

Electricity bills are paid by AGRITEX. In 1998, the bills were ranging from Z$ 80 000 to Z$ 115 000 per month. This translates to Z$ 370 - Z$ 532 per ha per month. AGRITEX is struggling to pay the costs, due to financial constraints facing the government. This has resulted in electricity being shut off by the power suppliers for periods of up to three months. This has resulted in crop losses. AGRITEX argues that the electricity bill is too high, considering that the annual allocation from central government is on average only Z$ 2 million and this amount will have to cater for more than 180 other schemes. AGRITEX has made some efforts to hand over the payment of bills to the farmers. Several meetings were held between AGRITEX, DWR, the local Member of Parliament (MP) and the farmers on this issue. However, farmers were reluctant to accept this responsibility. They argued that the irrigation design implemented was not suitable for smallholders. The system in place of first pumping water to a tank on the highest point and then releasing it into the fields is costly according to the farmers.

Repair and maintenance

DWR is responsible for the repairs of the dam and pump. When the pump needs major repairs, DWR takes it for repair on their account. This means that they have a running budget for the scheme. Farmers complained that DWR takes its time to repair the pump whenever it breaks down. Asked if they can manage to maintain the pump if the scheme is handed over to them, farmers pointed out that they can not. They argued that the pumps were imported so they need foreign currency to repair them. This is beyond their capabilities. They even complained on why these pumps were imported in the first place.

AGRITEX is supposed to repair and maintain the infield infrastructure. However, it seems that AGRITEX has since abandoned its obligation of maintaining the scheme. It is now asking farmers to be responsible. Farmers are now paying Z$ 100 per individual per year for the maintenance of the infield pipeline and fittings.

Institutional support

There are three main institutions that are being involved in the running of Ngezi Mamina scheme. These are AGRITEX, DWR and a local Development Committee.


AGRITEX provides technical advice to the farmers on irrigated crop production, irrigation scheduling and water management. Two full time Extension Workers are resident at the scheme.


DWR manages the dam, the pumping unit and the conveyance pipeline. The department employs a water bailiff and his assistants and these are responsible for closing and opening the pump and basic maintenance of the dam and pump.

Development Committee

In July 1997, a Development Committee (DC) was formed, comprising of four Chiefs from the area, some IMC members, District Council officials and some government officers. The kraal heads were not included in the DC, except for the IMC chairman (a kraal head himself) who qualified by virtue of being the head of the IMC. The DC's functions are supposed to be the overall development of the area, including the dryland, the Ngezi Mamina irrigation scheme and the proposed Ngezi Block B project. However, the IMC and other members of the scheme view the function of DC very suspiciously. There is a general feeling among irrigators that their own chiefs may not always vote in favour of the scheme. For example, it was reported that during a recent DC meeting, apparently aimed at nullifying the current plot holdings at the scheme, the DC approved the nullification against the wish of IMC mainly because most of the chiefs voted in favour of the nullification.

The current situation suggests that the DC is in conflict with the IMC in a power struggle. This relationship is not good for the smooth running of the scheme. The council, which is supposed to help the scheme in development issues, has its members in the DC and these seem to be against the IMC, especially on the land allocation issues. The situation is worsened by the fact that some council officials who had plots in the scheme were victims of the eviction exercise carried out by the kraal heads. Farmers complained that the District Development Fund (DDF), which works under the District Council and is responsible for maintaining roads in the area, is no longer doing so as a way of sabotaging the scheme. It is also alleged that the DDF tillage unit is no longer keen to send its tractors to service the scheme, because some council officials were evicted from the scheme. The nearby secondary schools, Ngezi and Saint Michael, now have a bad relationship with the scheme, because they were evicted from the scheme.

Agricultural performance

Major crops grown at the scheme are green maize and wheat in winter, beans, groundnuts and grain maize in summer. Horticultural crops such as tomatoes, onions and leafy vegetables are grown on a very small scale, probably one to two lines per farmer. One farmer who is the vice-chairman of the IMC grows potatoes. Wheat and beans are usually grown on contract with some private companies.

The crop yields obtained by farmers vary greatly. Typical examples are for wheat where some farmers obtain low yields of 2 tons/ha while others get 7 tons/ha. Yields for beans vary from 0.3 tons/ha to 1.5 tons/ha. The very low yields that are obtained by the majority of the farmers are a result of low levels of inputs, late planting due to shortage of draught power or simply lack of commitment on the part of the farmers. Most farmers are not credit worth, so they can not get any financial assistance from AFC. Most farmers believed that they can perform better if they get financial help. However, some good farmers claimed that there is no need to get financial help in irrigated agriculture. One such farmer claimed that he made a net profit of Z$ 80 000 from his 1.5 ha in 1997. He however added that farmers on the scheme had to be innovative to achieve this. Apparently this successful farmer is the chairman of the marketing sub-committee and other farmers accuse him of using his position for sourcing his own markets.

Most farmers are not keen to grow horticultural crops on a large scale. They are afraid of the high labour requirements of growing such crops and the uncertainty of markets. Farmers have been taken on study tours of other irrigation schemes, which are successfully growing and marketing horticultural crops. The Ngezi Mamina farmers are still reluctant to change.

Commercial aspects


The crops grown by the farmers are normally marketed locally either at the farm gate or at the nearby Chizinga business centre. Farmers do not make an effort to grow high value crops and source for lucrative markets in the city. The nearby secondary schools, Ngezi and St Michael, which were expected to buy from the scheme are not doing so. The major reason was that they were evicted from the scheme.

Input acquisition

There is low input use at the scheme and those who use inputs normally buy from the local business centre.

Farm income analysis

Farmer incomes vary greatly from farmer to farmer and this ranges from Z$ 3 000 to Z$ 80 000 per year from a 1.5 ha plot. Farmers with 0.5 ha get much less. Those farmers who concentrate on low value crops obtain low incomes, while a few farmers who take the risk of growing horticultural crops obtain high incomes. Generally it can be concluded that Ngezi Mamina scheme has failed to generate the anticipated incomes.

Financial and economic analysis

The discounted cash flow analysis for Ngezi Mamina irrigation scheme is presented in Table 35. The negative NPV indicate that the project is not viable. The NPV for the economic analysis was found to be minus Z$ 1 258 970, also indicating that the project is not viable economically.

Discounted cash flow analysis for Ngezi Mamina irrigation scheme

Year Investment Costs (Z$) Energy Costs (Z$) Replacement Costs (Z$) Repair & Maintenance Costs (Z$) Extension
Irrigation Income (Z$) Incremental Benefit (Z$)
1993 6 076 388           -6 076 389 
1994 6 076 388 482 253   43 403 120 000 1 114 005 -5 608 040 
1995 6 076 388 482 253   43 403 120 000 1 114 005 -5 608 040 
1996 6 076 388 482 253   43 403 120 000 1 114 005 -5 608 040 
1997 6 076 388 482 253   43 403 120 000 1 114 005 -5 608 040 
1998 6 076 388 482 253 20 000 43 403 120 000 1 114 005 -5 628 040 
NPV             -25 042 648 

Socio-economic impact

Ngezi Mamina is one of the schemes that have failed to achieve their intended objectives. Crop production at the scheme has failed to diversify into lucrative horticultural crops. Farmers still grow the traditional maize and groundnuts in summer instead of high paying crops. The farmers operate as if they are practising dryland agriculture. The yields are too low on average meaning that irrigation as a technology at Ngezi Mamina has failed to boost productivity. This does not fit well with the objectives of irrigation development. In the context of agricultural development of the country where commercialization of the smallholder farmer is emphasized, the scheme has failed. The low levels of inputs being used means that farmers are not yet operating as business minded people. The absence of farm record books also indicated that farmers at this scheme have not developed entrepreneurial skills. A lot of effort has been made by AGRITEX on teaching the farmers financial management and record keeping but farmers are reluctant to adopt.

Incomes at the scheme are generally very low with incomes per farmer of as low as Z$ 3 000 per year. Farmers acknowledged that the incomes from the scheme are not adequate to meet their basic requirements. They can not also finance inputs for the next season. Employment has not been created by the scheme. The involvement of farmers in non-irrigation activities indicates that irrigation has failed to act as an attractive employer. Hired labour is only used by a few irrigators, with payment being in kind.

Farmers at Ngezi Mamina still receive drought relief from government. For example, during the 1996/97 season despite having the irrigation scheme, the food situation was so bad that irrigators ended up approaching the government department of Social Welfare for food handouts. According to the farmers irrigation has failed to transform their social and economic lives. Farmers acknowledged that they have not managed to buy any assets using irrigation incomes. The incomes are far from being adequate. Despite the shortcomings of the scheme some local dealers have benefited from the scheme. The nearby Chizinga business centre, being the major supplier of inputs, has acknowledged that the scheme has brought in some benefits. Some three tractor owners in the area are also benefiting from the scheme. Tractors are normally hired by irrigators for ploughing the plots at Z$ 500/ha.


The study of Ngezi Mamina irrigation scheme has revealed some factors that are important for the successful implementation of smallholder irrigation schemes. It has come out clearly that an irrigation scheme can be comparatively well designed and in a sound technical state but that social issues, relating to land allocation, population pressure, power struggles and payment of O&M costs can affect the viability of the project. The main issues that affect Ngezi Mamina scheme are as follows:

Land disputes: The main problems on land revolve around the ownership of the scheme. The three kraal heads, under whose authority the scheme falls under, have claimed that the scheme belongs to them and their children. As such they claim that they have a right to allocate lands to themselves and their children and not to `outsiders' who had been settled by the government. This has resulted in the eviction of 26 plot holders who participated during scheme construction. The nearby Saint Michaels Mission Hospital, which had been allocated a plot so as to grow food for hospital patients, was also evicted. The evicted plot holders were replaced by 75 other farmers. It is these new farmers who are said to be performing poorly and not willing to cooperate with the rest. The evicted plot holders argue that they were allocated the land fairly as the project was not meant to be for one clan. They claim that the locals were not willing at first to participate and it was only later after seeing the benefits of irrigation that they started demanding for plots. It was said that some locals had thought that they were going to be made government workers.

High energy costs: The scheme is the most expensive project to run in terms of energy costs in the country. Electricity charges range from Z$ 80 000 to Z$ 115 000 per month. On an annual basis this consumes more than 50% of the annual budget allocated to AGRITEX for maintaining and running irrigation schemes in the country. Farmers indicated that they can not manage the bills, especially with their current cropping programme.

Poor water management: Poor water management is practised on the scheme. Farmers illegally extend their fields, use sprinkler sizes different from the designed size and tend to irrigate for longer hours than necessary.

Power struggle: There is a conflict between the IMC and the DC. The DC claims to have authority over the IMC, but the latter thinks otherwise. For example, the DC wanted the 24 evicted farmers to be reinstated but the IMC resisted this move. The IMC has also a poor working relationship with the District Council, AGRITEX, the MP and other government institutions in the area.

Choice of crops: Farmers only grow low value crops. As a result, the incomes they derive from the scheme are too low to cover the O&M costs of the scheme.

Gender aspects: Women are believed to be discriminated against in the scheme. It was reported that some widows were denied plots on the grounds that they had no physical strength to engage in land clearing. Young divorced women were also denied plots.

Weak IMC: The IMC is unable to stamp out unauthorized plot extensions and some offences go unpunished.

Scheme name: Farmers are not happy with the name Ngezi Mamina. They claim that this is a foreign businessman's name. Farmers want the scheme name changed to Chikwiriwindi.

Lack of respect for sacred places: Farmers reported that sacred sites were not spared during scheme construction. They claim that they are experiencing some misfortunes every year and this is due to failure by council to complete traditional rituals associated with the dam and the scheme.

Irrigation is not valued: Irrigation is viewed as a labour demanding technology. As such farmers are not willing to engage in horticultural crops which demand a lot of labour.

Despite the above weakness, the Ngezi Mamina scheme has several strengths that were revealed in the study. The strengths are:

Secure water supply: The Mamina dam, which supplies the scheme, is a secure source of water.

Availability of inputs: Inputs are easily available from the nearby business centres. Two big wholesale companies are available at the business centre and they stock all kinds of fertilizers and chemicals that farmers need.

In light of the experiences from Ngezi Mamina the following general recommendations must be considered in the future planning of smallholder irrigation schemes:

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