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Annex A-7 Oatlands Irrigation Scheme


Oatlands irrigation scheme is located in Masvingo District of Masvingo Province. The scheme is 5 ha large and was established in 1988. It has never performed to the expected levels. Oatlands scheme is fully government managed and farmers were only settled when the scheme had already been constructed. Farmers were never involved in the planning and implementation of the scheme and they currently feel that the scheme belongs to the government. As a result they do not want to participate in any O&M work. The government itself is failing to carry out the O&M of the scheme due to financial constraints. The scheme is in a poor physical condition. In summer farmers leave the irrigation scheme and cultivate their dryland plots in which they have much larger plots (4 ha dryland as compared to 0.4 ha in irrigation). The IMC is not effective and there is no order on the scheme. Water management is very poor and some waterlogged plots can be observed as one moves around the scheme. Interventions are needed to improve the performance of this scheme.


Oatlands irrigation scheme is located in the Mushandike resettlement area in Masvingo District of Masvingo Province. It is located about 36 km south east of Masvingo town, along the Masvingo-Mutirikwi dam highway. The scheme is located in Natural Region III, a relatively low rainfall area which receives on average 400-600 mm of rainfall per year. The scheme is 5 ha large and supports twelve plot holders, whose plots are 0.4 ha each. Eight of the twelve plot holders are widows and the other four are married couples. Of the eight widows, four lost their husbands after settlement and the other four joined the scheme as widows. In addition, each farmer has a 4 ha dryland plot. The scheme uses a gravity fed surface irrigation system with water being supplied from Oatlands dam.

Planning of the scheme

The designs of the scheme were done in 1987 by AGRITEX. However the construction was done by DERUDE, under the supervision of AGRITEX. Farmers did not participate during the planning and the construction of the scheme and were settled after the scheme had already been completed. People who were to be settled came from different areas, namely Murinye, Mugabe and Mapanzure communal areas

Social aspects

Land tenure and inheritance

The question of inheritance is not clear at the scheme. Some farmers interviewed responded that when a plot holder dies the plot pass on to the surviving spouse. Other farmers claimed that when a male plot holder dies the plot passes to the eldest son who in turn makes a part of it available to his mother and if a widow plot holder dies, the plot passes on to her children. However, some farmers said that the plot holder is the only person registered by the resettlement office and if he/she dies, the rest of the family has to vacate. From the above different perceptions on inheritance, it seems farmers are not certain about their security at the scheme.

Relationship with outsiders

The irrigators have a good working relationship with the non-irrigators. Actually, the irrigators in summer spend most of their time attending to their dryland plots rather than the irrigated plots. They cooperate with non-irrigators in most of the activities on the resettlement.

Scheme operation, maintenance and management

The scheme is government managed with the assistance of an IMC.


The IMC is composed of six members:

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

Five of the IMC members are women. The IMC coordinates all the scheme activities, including determination of the cropping programme and conflict resolution among other functions. The repair and maintenance of the scheme is viewed as an AGRITEX responsibility so the IMC is not involved. The Extension Worker for the area described the IMC as very weak and unorganized. They do not call for any meetings and do not mobilize irrigators to maintain the scheme.

The Extension Worker suggested that the IMC should undergo some training for the farmers to be able to take over the scheme. In addition, all irrigators should be taken on tour to other successful irrigation schemes in the country so that they can learn how to run the scheme. Planners seemed to have overlooked the training of farmers at the beginning.

Water management

Water management and efficient use of water are not important considerations at Oatlands irrigation scheme. Farmers acknowledged that they did not know the quantities of water they applied to different crops. Visual assessment showed that there is a lot of waterlogging on the scheme. Opening of water is not organized or coordinated. There is no one farmer responsible for opening or closing the water from the dam. Any one farmer can open the water any time he or she wishes, resulting in a lot of wastage. The IMC is aware of this situation, but no action is being taken. The Extension Worker felt that this might be due to the fact that currently farmers are not paying for water. The farmers view everything as for free.

Repairs and maintenance

AGRITEX is supposed to be maintaining Oatlands irrigation scheme. However, AGRITEX abandoned the repair and maintenance of the scheme in 1994, possibly due to financial constraints. Farmers have not taken initiative to take over as they still view the scheme as a government scheme. They have not contributed anything towards the repair and maintenance of the canals and other infrastructure. At one point the IMC tried to raise money from the farmers for O&M but it was unsuccessful.

Institutional support

Two government institutions are supposed to be involved in the running and management of the irrigation scheme, AGRITEX and DWR.


The irrigators view the scheme as an AGRITEX project, meaning that the department is responsible for the operation and management of the scheme. During the first years of operation and up to 1994, AGRITEX was responsible for all the scheme operations. The department was responsible for repairing the canals, fencing and other infield infrastructure. AGRITEX has, due to financial constraints, since stopped offering maintenance services to the scheme. However, there was no proper hand over of the scheme to the farmers


Oatlands dam is a state dam and falls under the authority of DWR. However, this department is not involved in the maintenance of the dam. AGRITEX used to maintain the dam to some extent, but they have since stopped.

Agricultural performance

No meaningful crop production takes place at this irrigation scheme. Production is mainly confined to winter, producing crops such as leaf vegetables, green maize, tomatoes and groundnuts. Bambara nuts and beans are the only crops grown in summer, but on a very small scale. Irrigators tend to shift to their 4 ha dryland plots in summer, paying very little attention to the irrigation scheme. Farmers gave the following reasons for their behaviour:

Figures for the use of inputs could not be obtained from the farmers due to the scarcity of written records. However, information revealed by the Extension Worker indicated that the levels of inputs used at the scheme are very low. For example, the basal fertilizer used on green maize is around 100 kg/ha as opposed to the recommended 450 kg/ha. The amount of top dressing used is 50 kg/ha as compared to the recommended 400 kg/ha. The bean crop is not fertilized at all. These low input levels, combined with poor water management, are responsible for the poor yields. The yields obtained at the scheme recorded by the Extension Worker over a three-year period are presented in Table 36.

Average crop yields at Oatlands irrigation scheme (Source: Extension Worker's record book,1988)

Crop Yield (tons/ha) Yield (tons/ha) Yield (tons/ha)
  1994/95 1995/96 1996/97
Maize 0.5 - 3 0.8 - 2.5 0.8 - 2.5
Beans 0.4 - 0.8 0.5 - 0.8 0.5 - 0.8
Groundnuts 0.6 - 1.5 0.6 - 1.5 0.7 - 1.5
Tomatoes 8 - 15 10 - 15 10 - 15

Commercial aspects


Due to the low yields and poor quality produce obtained at the scheme there is no organized marketing of crops. The crops can not compete on lucrative markets, such as Masvingo, and as a result all crops are marketed locally. Tomatoes and green maize are marketed by the roadside, on the Masvingo - Lake Mutirikwi highway. Irrigators roast green maize cobs for sale to passing motorists and others. Beans and vegetables are also locally marketed. When asked why they do not take their produce to Masvingo, farmers reported that they can not compete with the nearby commercial farmers who use Masvingo as the main marketing centre.

Input acquisition

There is very little use of fertilizers at this scheme. The little fertilizer used is acquired from the local business centre.

Farm income analysis

The incomes obtained by Oatlands irrigators are very low. Farmers reported annual net incomes of Z$ 800 - Z$ 2 000 from a 0.4 ha plot. The Extension Worker confirmed that the majority of the farmers get less that Z$ 2 000 per year. Tomatoes is the highest paying crop, followed by green maize. Beans and vegetables do not give any incomes and bambara nuts are grown for home consumption. These low incomes are a result of poor quality produce and low yield levels.

Financial and economic analysis

The financial cash flow analysis for Oatlands irrigation scheme is presented in Table 37. The cash flows are based on the 1997 prices which have been deflated to reflect 1988 prices. The NPV for Oatlands is negative, indicating that the project is not viable. The FIRR and EIRR could not be computed because the cash flows are negative.

Discounted cash flow analysis for Oatlands irrigation scheme.

Year Investment Costs (Z$) Replacement Costs (Z$) Repair & maintenance costs (Z$) Extension (Z$) Irrigation income (Z$) Incremental benefit (Z$)
1988 8 056         -8 056
1989 8 056   698 20 000 5 582 -23 172
1990 8 056   698 20 000 5 582 -23 172
1991 8 056   698 20 000 5 582 -23 172
1992 8 056 4 200 698 20 000 5 582 -27 372
1993 8 056   698 20 000 5 582 -23 172
1994 8 056   698 20 000 5 582 -23 172
1995 8 056   698 20 000 5 582 -23 172
1996 8 056   698 20 000 5 582 -23 172
1997 8 056   698 20 000 5 582 -23 172
NPV           -16 225

Socio-economic impact

The scheme has not contributed much towards improving the standard of living of the participants, as envisaged at the planning stage. In terms of improving rural peoples' incomes the scheme has failed to achieve the expected levels. The net incomes of Z$ 800 - Z$ 5 000 per year per farmer are too low to run and manage the scheme. Considering that the farmers' relationship with AFC is bad, they will remain in financial problems, a situation not good for the viability of the scheme.

The low levels of inputs used indicate that the farmers have not developed a commercial mentality. They are still interested in low dryland farming as evidenced by their migration to the dryland plots during summer. Good yields in the dryland are only obtained once in every four to five years. Most irrigators do not engage hired labour, although the farmers complained that their irrigation system is labour intensive. The farmers complained that they do not have money to engage hired labour. Only a few farmers employ hired labour which is paid in kind. This is quite positive but the level of employment generated is too low to make an impact.

Irrigators still receive food-handouts from government indicating that irrigation has not made them food self-sufficient. In 1997 the farmers received drought relief packages and this was again the case in 1998. If the scheme was operating well, it has the potential to feed all the farmers and other villagers in the area all year round.

The water logging and ponding on the scheme is a health hazard. The scheme is a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes. Although information could not be obtained on the malaria statistics on the scheme, it is likely that the scheme is having negative health impact on the users.


Several factors have been revealed to be responsible for the poor performance of Oatlands irrigation scheme. The main factors are:

Non involvement of farmers at planning: The settling of farmers on to an already constructed scheme was poor planning. Farmers were never involved in scheme construction and decision making They now view the scheme as a government scheme and not theirs.

Irrigation is not valued: The farmers can get good yields in their dryland plots during good years. Due to this they concentrate on their dryland plots in summer.

Lack of farmer training: Farmers did not receive training at the start of the scheme. As a result they are failing to perform well in irrigated agriculture

Management issues: The scheme has a weak and disorganized IMC, which needs training in management and leadership skills

Water management: The scheme is practicing poor water management. Farmers irrigate at will and they are not worried about water losses. Lack of training and non-payment of water by the farmers is responsible for this.

Poor scheme repair and maintenance: Irrigation infrastructure is broken down and there is no repair and maintenance resulting in a lot of water being wasted on the scheme. AGRITEX, which used to maintain the scheme, stopped without a formal hand over of O&M to the farmers. Farmers still consider the scheme to be AGRITEX run.

Inheritance: The question of inheritance is not clear, so plot holders are not sure about the security of tenure.

Off-farm activities: Most of the women on the scheme go on cross boarder shopping in South Africa leaving very little time for irrigation. They consider this shopping to be more paying than irrigation.

Attitude problems: Farmers developed a negative attitude towards irrigation from the very beginning. They complain that irrigation is too labour intensive leaving very little time for other activities.

Some positive factors that work in favour of the scheme were also revealed by the study. The main factors are:

Secure water supply: Oatlands dam the source of water for the scheme is a secure water supply. It was reported that there is enough water to allow for the expansion of the scheme.

Proximity to markets: The scheme is only 36km from Masvingo town, which makes transport costs to the market much lower than other irrigation schemes in Masvingo province. Their nearness to the market puts them in a better position to get timely marketing information.

The study of Oatlands irrigation scheme has shown lot of lessons, which are important for the future planning and implementation of smallholder irrigation projects. Some of the most important lessons are:

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