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General synthesis

This chapter presents a comparative analysis of the ten selected irrigation schemes, namely Chitora, Longdale, Mambanjeni, Murara, Mzinyathini, Ngezi Mamina, Oatlands, Principe, Rozva and Wenimbi. The findings are part of the study aimed at assessing the socio-economic impact of smallholder irrigation development in Zimbabwe. The chapter goes further to give a broader view of the role of irrigation development in agricultural and economic development.

Location of the ten irrigation schemes studied

The locations of the ten irrigation schemes studied are summarized in Table 5 and are also shown on Figure 3.

TABLE 5
Location of irrigation schemes studied (Source: AGRITEX, 1999)

Scheme Province District Area NR Distance from major town
Chitora Mashonaland East Mutoko Resettlement III 120km North East of Harare
Longdale Masvingo Masvingo Resettlement III 20km South of Masvingo
Mambanjeni Midlands Gweru Communal IV 46km North West of Gweru
Murara Mashonaland East Mutoko Communal IV 180km East of Harare
Mzinyathini Matebeleland South Umzingwane Communal IV 120km South of Bulawayo
Ngezi Mamina Mashonaland West Kadoma Communal III 130km South West of Harare
Oatlands Masvingo Masvingo Resettlement III 36km from Masvingo
Principe Mashonaland Central Shamva Resettlement II 140km North East of Harare
Rozva Masvingo Bikita Communal III 80km East of Masvingo
Wenimbi Mashonaland East Marondera Resettlement III 42km South East of Marondera

Five irrigation schemes, Mambanjeni, Murara, Mzinyathini, Ngezi Mamina and Rozva are located in the communal areas while the rest of the schemes are located in resettlement areas. All the schemes, except Murara, are within a 150 km radius from a major town. Murara is over 180 km from Harare, however with very good main and feeder roads.

Water sources and irrigation technology types

Seven of the ten schemes studied abstract water from dams. Chitora gets water from a pick up weir on the Chitora river, Longdale gets water from a borehole on the scheme and Wenimbi gets its water from a pick up weir on the Macheke river. The water sources are secure, except the sources for Longdale, Murara and Wenimbi irrigation schemes. The details of the water sources and water delivery systems for all the schemes covered in this study are given in Table 6. Longdale and Principe irrigation schemes use imported electric pumps to pump water up to the field edge. The rest of the schemes either uses gravity supply or are supplied by locally manufactured electric pumps. Table 6 also gives the type of irrigation technologies available in each irrigation scheme.

FIGURE 3. Location of the ten selected irrigation schemes
Source: Atlas Mondial ENCARTA, Microsoft

Scheme sizes and number of beneficiaries

The schemes studied vary in size. The smallest scheme is Oatlands with an area of 5 ha and the largest scheme is Ngezi Mamina with 216 ha. The number of plot holders in each scheme also varies depending on the allocated plot size. The plot sizes vary from 0.3 ha at Mambanjeni to 1.55 ha at Wenimbi. Mambanjeni has the highest number of beneficiaries with 168 farmers while Oatlands has the lowest with 12 farmers (Table 7).

Irrigation in the schemes can be full time irrigation or part time irrigation as also shown in Table 7. Full time irrigation refers to the situation where the plot holders do not have any other land outside the scheme. Part time irrigation is the situation where by the irrigators, in addition to their irrigated plots, are also allocated a dryland plot outside the scheme which they also cultivate in the rainy summer season.

TABLE 6
Water sources and irrigation technology types on the selected schemes (Source: AGRITEX, 1999)

Scheme Water source

Water delivery system

Irrigation technology Remarks
Chitora Chitora river Water is pumped from a pick up weir on the river by an electric motor driven pump through a buried pipeline in to the field. Sprinkler The water source is secure.
Longdale Borehole Water is pumped from a borehole by an electric motor driven sub-mersible pump through a buried pipeline in to the field. Sprinkler The water source is not secure. Pump was imported.
Mambanjeni Insukamini dam Water is pumped from dam by an electric motor driven pump through a buried pipeline in to the field. Sprinkler The water source is secure. Pumps frequently breakdown.
Murara Murara dam Water is delivered through gravity from the dam via a concrete lined canal to the scheme. Surface The dam is silting.
Mzinyathini Umzingwane dam Water is delivered through gravity from the dam via a concrete lined canal to the scheme Surface The water source is secure.
Ngezi Mamina Mamina dam Water is pumped from the dam by electric motor driven pumps to a reservoir from which it is gravitated into the field. Sprinkler The pumps were imported.
Oatlands Oatlands dam Water is delivered through gravity from the dam via a concrete lined canal to the scheme. Surface The water source is secure.
Principe Eben dam Water is pumped from dam by an electric motor driven pump through a buried pipeline in to the field. Sprinkler The water source is reliable. Pumps were imported.
Rozva Rozva dam Water is pumped from the dam by electric motor driven pumps to a reservoir from which it is gravitated into the field. Surface The water source is secure.
Wenimbi Macheke river Water is pumped from a pick up weir on the river by an electric motor driven pump through a buried pipeline into the field. Sprinkler The weir runs out of water in winter.

TABLE 7
Scheme sizes and number of beneficiaries (Source: Farmers and Extension Workers at schemes)

Scheme Area (ha) Number of female plot holders Number of male plot holders Total number of plot holders Plot size (ha) Average dyland area (ha) Full time or part time irrigation
Chitora 9 0 18 18 0.5 Nil Full time
Longdale           7.5 2 13 15 0.5 Nil Full time
Mambanjeni 78 100 68 168 0.3 - 0.5 Nil Full time
Murara 18 12 24 36 0.5 Nil Full time
Mzinyathini 32 20 61 81 0.4 Nil Full time
Ngezi Mamina 216 30 124 154 0.5 - 1.5 Nil Full time
Oatlands 5 8 4 12 0.4 4 Part time
Principe 60 10 50 60 1 0.4 Full time
Rozva 21 8 25 33 0.5 - 1 1 Part time
Wenimbi         34.2 2 20 22 1.55 8 Full time
Total      480.7 192 407 599      

Planning of the irrigation schemes

All the schemes selected, except Chitora and Wenimbi, were initiated by the government in its endeavour to provide the farmers with a source of self-sustenance. The farmers did not actually request for the development of the schemes. As for Wenimbi and Chitora, farmers identified the project and approached the government for assistance. The farmers made contributions towards the costs of the infield development. In the rest of the schemes farmers did not make any financial contributions towards the development of the projects. The Ngezi Mamina, Rozva and Mambanjeni farmers participated only as hired labour. The Oatlands and Principe farmers were resettled after the schemes had already been constructed. The details on the planning of each irrigation scheme are given in Table 8.

TABLE 8
Planning details of the irrigation schemes studied (Source: AGRITEX, 1999)

Scheme Identi-fied by Planner /Designer Funding Year project developed

Name of contractor

Farmer involvement in construction Construction supervisor
Chitora GOZ AGRITEX DANIDA

/GOZ

1994 Stewarts & Lloyds Provided labour AGRITEX
Longdale GOZ AGRITEX DANIDA 1993 Wright Rain Provided labour AGRITEX
Mambanjeni GOZ DAN GROUP Consultants GOZ 1987 Civil Construction Hired as casuals DWR
Murara GOZ DDF/AGRITEX   1982 DDF Provided labour AGRITEX
Mzinyathini GOR GOR GOR 1965 GOR Provided labour GOR
Ngezi Mamina GOZ HALCROW Consultants KfW 1994 Cochrane Trenching of infield lines and hired as casuals AGRITEX
Oatlands GOZ Not Known GOZ 1987 DERUDE Never Participated DERUDE
Principe GOZ AGRITEX DANIDA

/GOZ

1993 Wright Rain Never Participated AGRITEX
Rozva GOZ Dorsh Consult Consultants GOZ 1994 Civil Construction Hired as casuals AGRITEX
Wenimbi Farmers AGRITEX DANIDA/

FARMER

1990 Wright Rain Provided labour and infield funding AGRITEX

Due to the different approaches taken in implementation, the Wenimbi and Chitora farmers view their schemes differently from the farmers of the other schemes. For example, the Mambanjeni, Oatlands and Ngezi Mamina farmers consider their projects to be government projects. One would believe that if they had contributed towards the development of the irrigation schemes they would strongly regard the projects as theirs. The Chitora, Longdale, and Murara farmers on the other hand strongly feel that the schemes belong them. This is mainly because they participated throughout the project cycles, providing labour for construction and repair and maintenance of all infrastructure. As such they have developed a sense of ownership.

When irrigation scheme performance of each of the studied schemes is examined in relation to farmer involvement during planning, it appears that all the schemes in which farmers participated during implementation are doing very well. However, for Ngezi Mamina, although the farmers participated during construction, there are other problems which outweigh this element of participation, hence the poor performance of the scheme, as explained below.

A common feature of the four communal schemes, Ngezi Mamina, Murara, Mambanjeni and Rozva, is the fact that some farmers initially refused to join irrigation for fear of being used as "government workers". However, later on they returned to demand plots after realizing that others who had joined were not working for the government. Rozva in particular had many farmers refusing the scheme and it is believed that some political influence was behind their resentment. Although they later accepted, they are still not convinced about the merits of the investment. At Ngezi Mamina, those who had refused to join the scheme in the beginning have now forced themselves in and a lot of people considered as outsiders have been removed. Some plots have been subdivided to benefit the children of the people who claim to be the real beneficiaries of the project. The confusion on land allocation has a lot of bearing on the performance of this scheme.

The Oatlands and Principe farmers were resettled after scheme construction and they generally view the schemes as government properties. In the case of Principe, in which farmers were resettled after scheme construction, some communal farmers refrained from applying for resettlement at the scheme for fear of being used as government workers.

Three of the schemes studied, Mambanjeni, Ngezi Mamina and Rozva, were planned and designed by consultants. Government departments planned the rest. The three planned by consultants have technical problems. Mambanjeni is failing to perform because of frequent pump breakdowns, poor lateral spacing and wrongly placed hydrants. It is believed that the system was poorly designed. In Ngezi Mamina, the system has high pressure requirements and pumping requires a lot of energy. Farmers feel that they can not take over the energy bill. Rozva was not properly levelled and the infield designs are believed to be sub-standard.

Scheme ownership and inheritance

The question of scheme ownership raised a lot of problems because it was not clear to the farmers what "scheme ownership" means. The confusion was brought about by the fact that an irrigation scheme comprises of land and irrigation infrastructure on it. Some farmers could not understand what could be owned: the land or the irrigation equipment or both.

Generally, the farmers at Mambanjeni, Ngezi Mamina, Oatlands, Principe and Rozva felt that the projects did not belong to them but to the government. However the farmers at Chitora, Longdale, Murara, Mzinyathini and Wenimbi schemes were convinced that the schemes belong to them. The farmers' perceptions on scheme ownership for each of the ten schemes are summarized in Table 9.

At Mambanjeni, Ngezi Mamina and Rozva schemes, the farmers generally agreed that the irrigation schemes belonged to the government as far as irrigation equipment was concerned but the land belonged to them. The farmers whose dryland plots were converted into the irrigation scheme felt that the land was their birthright. For Ngezi Mamina scheme, those who joined the scheme from outside and did not have their land taken by the scheme felt that the land did not belong to them.

The irrigators at Principe scheme believed that the scheme is theirs only with regards to the operation and maintenance costs, but that the land and irrigation infrastructure belonged to the government. The fact that they are not consulted by local authorities on who and when to resettle new farmers on abandoned plots is testimony to their beliefs.

TABLE 9
Farmers' perceptions on irrigation scheme ownership (Source: Author's personal communication with farmers on schemes, 1998)

Scheme Whether farmers were displaced by the scheme

Perception of scheme ownership

Chitora Farmers came for resettlement from communal lands. Farmers feel that the scheme belongs to them.
Longdale Farmers were resettled from communal lands. Farmers consider the scheme to be theirs.
Mambanjeni Farmers lost their fields to irrigation. Farmers feel land belongs to them but infra-structure to the government.
Murara Farmers lost their fields to irrigation. Farmers consider the scheme to be theirs.
Mzinyathini Farmers were displaced by the scheme. Farmers consider the scheme to be theirs.
Ngezi Mamina Some farmers lost their fields and some came from outside. Infrastructure is considered government property while land belongs to the farmers who lost their fields.
Oatlands Farmers were resettled after the scheme had already been constructed. Farmers feel that the scheme belongs to the government.
Principe Farmers were resettled after the scheme had already been constructed. Farmers view the scheme as belonging to the government.
Rozva Farmers lost their fields to irrigation. Farmers perceive the infrastructure as belonging to the government and land to them.
Wenimbi Farmers came for resettlement from communal lands. Farmers feel that the scheme is theirs.

As regards inheritance, the plot holders at all the schemes, except Oatlands, agreed that wives should inherit the plots in the event that the husband died. At Oatlands scheme, the question of inheritance is not clear. At Principe, inheritance was complicated by numerous polygamous marriages.

Management of the irrigation schemes

Chitora, Longdale, Murara, Mzinyathini and Wenimbi schemes are farmer managed schemes, Principe is jointly managed by government and farmers and the remaining four schemes are government managed schemes. Principe farmers feel that they have no full autonomy of running the scheme. This is because the farmers have no right as to who joins the project and they have no reason to believe that the irrigation equipment is theirs. According to them, nobody informed them about what belonged to the farmers and what did not. Therefore, farmer management in Principe only relates to the operation and maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure.

Each of the ten schemes has an Irrigation Management Committee (IMC) and sub-committees under the IMC. The sub-committees can be for marketing, water management, crop production and security. Table 10 summarizes the composition and functions of the various IMCs at the ten schemes. The IMCs use a system of bye-laws to manage and run the schemes. A typical bye-law or constitution that can be found in an irrigation scheme is presented in Annex C. Some of the IMCs are effective in running the schemes properly while others are not. Table 11 summarizes the strengths of the various IMCs as perceived by the farmers and the Extension Workers.

The farmers at Principe felt that the government weaned them too early. The views at Chitora scheme were that farmers should be given assistance during the first or first two seasons after which they are weaned. Farmers at this scheme were helped with inputs for the first season only and thereafter were left to source inputs on their own. They were comfortable with this arrangement.

Farmers at Chitora, Murara, Mzinyathini and Wenimbi farmer managed schemes have no problems maintaining their schemes. They collectively raise funds to carry out the O&M work necessary.

Longdale farmers are capable of maintaining the scheme but have problems with their imported pump. Spare parts for the pump are difficult to find, and as such the irrigation scheme can go for several months without irrigation following just a minor pump breakdown.

Farmers at Principe scheme complained that poor farmer selection is affecting the performance of the scheme. The O&M costs were reported to be eroding some farmers' income as evidenced by the failure of some of them to contribute towards the costs of energy and repairs on time. The farmers felt that the selection of plot holders was not stringent enough to screen those who are not committed to irrigation. The uncommitted group is reported to be responsible for the poor performance of the project by failing to pay the O&M costs on time.

TABLE 10
Management structures at the irrigation schemes (Source: Scheme Extension Workers' record books, 1998)

Scheme Type of Management Management Structure Responsibilities of the Irrigation Management Committees
Chitora Farmer Chairperson, secretary and their deputies, treasurer and two committee members. Linking the scheme with various institutions.
Longdale Farmer Chairperson, secretary and their deputies, treasurer and two committee members. Overall management of scheme, cropping programme formulation and collection of operation and maintenance funds from farmers.
Mambanjeni Government Chairperson, secretary and their deputies, treasurer and seven committee members. Act as a link between institutions and farmers.
Murara Farmer Chairperson, secretary and their deputies, treasurer and nine committee members. Overall management of scheme, cropping programme formulation and collection of operation and maintenance funds from farmers.
Mzinyathini Farmer Chairperson, secretary and their deputies, treasurer and two committee members. Overall management of scheme, cropping programme formulation and collection of operation and maintenance funds from farmers.
Ngezi Mamina Government Chairman, secretary and their deputies, treasurer, five committee members and a marketing sub-committee. Cropping programme formulation, linking farmers with institutions and markets. Plot allocation.
Oatlands Government Chairperson, secretary and their deputies, treasurer, four committee members and a production sub-committee. Overall management of scheme, cropping programme formulation and collection of operation and maintenance funds from farmers.
Principe Jointly Chairperson, secretary and their deputies, treasurer, two committee members, water management, marketing and crop production sub-committ. Overall management of scheme, cropping programme formulation and collection of operation and maintenance funds from farmers.
Rozva Government Chairperson, secretary and their deputies, treasurer and two committee members. Linking the scheme with various institutions.
Wenimbi Farmer Chairperson, secretary and their deputies, treasurer, four committee members and a crop production sub-committ. Overall management of scheme, cropping programme formulation and collection of operation and maintenance funds from farmers.

TABLE 11
Performance of the Irrigation Management Committees (Source: Author's personal communication with scheme Extension Workers, 1998)

Scheme

Effectiveness of the IMC
Chitora Very effective. O&M is done well and in time
Longdale Very efficient. Good at formulating cropping programmes and ensuring that all the repairs are done on time. They are let down by their imported pump which frequently breaks down. The physical condition of the scheme is good.
Mambanjeni IMC not involved in O&M. However, it is considered being effective in linking farmers with various institutions. The scheme however is in a poor state.
Murara Very effective. They enforce the bye-laws and make sure that O&M works are adequately done and in time. It is well respected by the farmers. The scheme is in a good state.
Mzinyathini Very efficient. The IMC is well respected by the farmers. It mobilises farmers to carry out the entire O&M works. The scheme is in a good state
Ngezi Mamina Ineffective. The IMC is actually anti government institutions. The IMC is actually opposed to those government institutions, which they are supposed to work with. They do not want to participate in O&M operations.
Oatlands Very ineffective. The IMC views the scheme as a government property. They do not participate in O&M works. The scheme is in a bad state.
Principe Effective. However, they feel that there is a lot of interference from the council and the Resettlement Officer (RO). For example the reallocation of vacant plots is done by the RO without consulting the IMC. Farmers feel that this is not good for the scheme. The scheme is doing well.
Rozva Ineffective. There are two groups of people different on the basis of the kraal from which they come from. These groups find it difficult to work together and the IMC is failing to control the situation. The scheme is in a poor physical condition.
Wenimbi Very effective. O&M is done well. Electricity bills are paid on time and repairs are done promptly.

In the case of the government managed schemes Mambanjeni, Ngezi Mamina, Oatlands and Rozva, the operation and maintenance of infrastructure is not adequate.

At Mambanjeni scheme there are always delays in repairing the pump whenever it breaks down. Electricity is sometimes disconnected due to non-payment of the bills. Department of Water Resources (DWR) is the government department responsible for the maintenance of the pump and payment of electricity bills. DWR is facing budgetary constraints.

Ngezi Mamina is also in a bad state with electricity being frequently disconnected by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), due to unpaid electricity bills. The payment of the bill is the responsibility of AGRITEX. The bill averages Z$ 100 000 per month, which translates into over Z$ 1.2 million per year. This is equivalent to more than 50% of the budget allocated to AGRITEX for managing and operating all the irrigation schemes in the country. This is not enough given that a lot more schemes require a share of that budget. Efforts are being made to hand over the payment of the bill to the farmers. The farmers are reluctant to accept this responsibility and they accuse the planners of producing a complicated design that can not be managed by the farmers themselves.

At Oatlands the gate valves are leaking, the canals are broken and the whole system is operating inefficiently. AGRITEX, which is the government department responsible for maintaining the scheme has silently withdrawn without handing over the scheme to the farmers.

Rozva scheme has problems with the headworks and infield infrastructure. Pump breakdowns are common and the infield hydrants are leaking. The government is failing to provide adequate maintenance.

Water savings were observed to be better at Chitora, Longdale, Principe and Wenimbi schemes than at any of the government managed schemes. This can be attributed to the electricity charges which farmers pay at the farmer managed schemes. The charges compel the farmers to be more careful and efficient in using the water. At the government managed schemes like Ngezi Mamina and Oatlands water management is very poor because farmers do not pay for electricity and water bills.

In conclusion it can be said that farmer managed schemes are better managed than government run schemes. Budgetary constraints on the part of government have been cited as the main reason for the failure of government institutions to effectively maintain and manage irrigation schemes.

Agricultural performance

Farmers at farmer managed schemes generally grow high value horticultural crops. The reason for this is that the farmers want to raise enough money for O&M purposes. Chitora, Longdale, Wenimbi and Murara all grow lucrative crops that can not be grown under dryland conditions, like green pepper, cucumber, carrots, squash, butternut, peas, tomatoes and potatoes (Table 12).

TABLE 12
Crops grown at the different irrigation schemes (Source: Extension Workers' record books, 1998)

Scheme

Major crops grown

Cropping Intensity (%)
Chitora Tomatoes, peas, green pepper, groundnuts, green maize, cucumber, rape 300
Longdale Green maize, wheat, tomatoes, beans, rape 200
Mambanjeni Maize, beans, green maize, wheat 200
Murara Tomatoes, butternut, cucumber, okra, beans, grain maize 200
Mzinyathini Maize, groundnuts, sugar beans, wheat, cabbage, rape, tomatoes 200
Ngezi Mamina Green maize, wheat, beans, groundnuts, grain maize 200
Oatlands Maize, beans, groundnuts, tomatoes 80
Principe Tomatoes, maize, baby corn, green maize, beans 200
Rozva Beans, green maize, leafy vegetables 90
Wenimbi Tomatoes, green maize, grain maize, leafy vegetables 150

In the government managed schemes it appeared the choice of crops grown is not of importance. Ngezi Mamina scheme for example concentrates on low value crops such as wheat, grain maize and beans. Wheat seems to be very important because farmers believe that it is easy to produce and to market. The farmers have a running contract with a private company National Foods so they do not have any marketing problems. However, they complained that the prices given by National Foods are too low. The farmers at this scheme are scared of growing horticultural crops. According to them, horticultural crops demand a lot of labour and they are not easy to market. They tend to concentrate on crops that can be bought straight from the scheme. Farmers at Oatlands scheme are also not worried about producing high value crops. It is highly probable that if the Ngezi Mamina and Oatlands farmers were made to pay for O&M costs their cropping patterns would otherwise change.

High crop yields were reported at Chitora, Murara, Mzinyathini, and Principe and Wenimbi. The high yields are due to the use of high levels of inputs. The yields on these schemes are substantially higher than those obtained under rainfed conditions. For example, maize yields for Wenimbi during the 1996/97 season ranged between 6 - 9 tons/ha as compared to the 1 - 2 tons/ha obtained under rainfed. For Mzinyathini, maize yields during the 1995/96 season were between 6 - 8 tons/ha, as compared to the 0.6 - 2 tons/ha obtained under rainfed conditions. Groundnuts yields were 2 tons/ha in Mzinyathini, as compared to 0.7 - 1 tons/ha obtained in the dryland. The above examples indicate that crop yields have gone up manifold with irrigation. Average yields for selected crops obtained in the various ten schemes are presented in Table 13.

TABLE 13
Average yields in tons/ha for selected crops at the different irrigation schemes during the 1997/1998 season (Source: AGRITEX and farmers' estimates, 1998)

Scheme Maize Green maize* Wheat Tomatoes Beans Groundnuts
Chitora ---  35 000 --- 40 --- 4
Longdale 3 15 000 1 15 0.7 --- 
Mambanjeni 2 --- 2.5 --- 0.8 ---
Murara 6 --- --- 28 2 --- 
Mzinyathini 7 --- --- 20 --- 2
Ngezi Mamina 2.5 20 000 3 --- 0.8 1.2 
Oatlands 2 --- --- 12 0.6 1.0
Principe 5.5 35 000 --- 20 1.5 ---
Rozva 1.8 ---- --- --- --- 0.8
Wenimbi 7 35 000 --- 30 --- ---

* yield for green maize is given in cobs.

For schemes such as Mambanjeni, Ngezi Mamina, Oatlands, and Rozva crop yields were found to be much lower and comparable with those obtained under dryland conditions. For example maize yields obtained for Oatlands scheme were 0.8 - 2.5 tons/ha during the 1995/96 season and these yields are similar to those obtained under dryland conditions. The low yields are due to lack of inputs and commitment on the part of the farmers.

Crop yields obtained in the various schemes seem to be related to the planning stage of the scheme. Those schemes in which the farmers were against irrigation development at the planning stage seem to be performing badly in terms of yields. Farmers who feel that the schemes belong to them are committed and are producing good yields.

Commercial aspects

Marketing

All the schemes that produce high value horticultural crops have organized marketing strategies and structures. They hire transport collectively and go to the markets as a group. Chitora, Murara, Principe and Wenimbi (all farmer managed schemes) fall into this category. For example Wenimbi scheme produces peas for export through the Horticultural Promotional Council2 (HPC).

Schemes such as Ngezi Mamina, Oatlands and Rozva concentrate on locally marketed crops and they prefer buyers to come to the scheme. The quality of their produce is poor in most cases meaning that they can not compete fully on the lucrative markets. The other reason why they do not make an effort to exploit the lucrative markets is that they are not paying for O&M costs. It is highly probable that once they start paying for these costs they will undergo a complete transformation.

Acquisition of inputs

All the schemes demand some inputs from local and outside dealers. Table 14 summarizes the perceptions of local dealers on the importance of the irrigation schemes studied.

TABLE 14
Role of the irrigation schemes in promoting local dealers (Source: AGRITEX Extension Workers, 1998)

Scheme Dealers' and Extension Workers' Perceptions
Chitora High levels of input use lead to very high demands for inputs, most of which are supplied by local dealers.
Longdale The scheme demands substantial amounts of inputs from local and Masvingo dealers.
Mambanjeni The levels of inputs are low so the scheme does not demand inputs as expected.
Murara Local dealers benefit a lot from the scheme.
Mzinyathini The scheme demands substantial amounts of inputs from the local dealers.
Ngezi Mamina Local dealers benefit a lot from the scheme.
Oatlands The demand of inputs is very low from this scheme.
Principe The scheme provides the local dealers some brisk business throughout the year
Rozva The demand for inputs is far below expectations.
Wenimbi The scheme demands very high amounts of fertilizer throughout the year. Dryland farmers only demand inputs during summer.

Some schemes are more important than others in terms of their role in supporting the local dealers. Schemes that grow horticultural crops demand larger amounts of inputs than those which cultivate field crops. In this case Chitora, Murara, Principe and Wenimbi schemes demand a lot of inputs from the local dealers. These schemes also provide a lot of support to the local transporters during marketing operations. Transport is hired to transport produce to the nearest towns for marketing. This demand for agricultural inputs and transport for marketing purposes by the irrigation schemes are forms of forward and backward linkages important for economic development.

Incomes derived from the irrigation schemes

Farmer incomes derived from the schemes are presented in Table 15. High incomes are derived from Chitora, Murara, Mzinyathini, Principe and Wenimbi schemes. The individual farmers in these schemes get monthly incomes which are higher than the minimum wage of Z$ 600 per month which is paid for unskilled labour in the agricultural industry of Zimbabwe. The incomes are even higher than the minimum wage of Z$ 1 400 per month which is paid for unskilled labour in the Zimbabwean industry. Chitora scheme has the highest income levels per hectare while Wenimbi has the highest income per farmer. Oatlands scheme has the lowest incomes in terms of both per farmer and per hectare basis.

From the study it was discovered that farmers with low incomes tend to participate in off farm activities such as fishing, beer brewing, gold panning and pottery. This is true for Mambanjeni and Ngezi Mamina schemes. Farmers at Oatlands and Rozva schemes tend to concentrate on dryland farming during the rainy season and not paying enough attention to their irrigated plots.

TABLE 15
Incomes derived from the irrigation schemes during the 1997/1998 season (Source: AGRITEX extension staff and farmers, 1999)

Scheme Plot size (ha) Annual average income per farmer (Z$) Income per ha (Z$) Monthly average income per farmer (Z$)
Chitora 0.5 60 000 120 000 5 000
Longdale 0.5 6 000 12 000 500
Mambanjeni 0.5 3 000 6 000 250
Murara 0.5 25 000 50 000 2 083
Mzinyathini 0.4 20 000 50 000 1 667
Ngezi Mamina 0.5 3 000 6 000 250
Oatlands 0.4 2 000 5 000 167
Principe 1.0 30 000 30 000 1 250
Rozva 0.5 3 000 6 000 250
Wenimbi 1.55 79 000 50 968 6 583

Financial and economic analysis of the irrigation schemes

Financial analysis

Financial analysis was conducted on all ten projects to judge their impacts on the different stakeholders, including the farmers and the government. The analysis follows the "time adjusted cash flow approach". This assumes that every transaction falls at the end of the accounting period, which is the end of year in this case. This means that the initial investment is considered to have taken place during the first year of the project. A constant price approach was also adopted, thus expressing the costs and benefits in real terms.

Included in the benefit stream of the financial analysis are government savings on drought relief. These were estimated using an average family size of six people for each scheme and the basic requirement of 550 kg maize per person per year.

In order to assess the financial viability of the schemes, the Financial Internal Rate of Return (FIRR) and the Net Present Value (NPV) were computed for each project. The discount rate used was 9.75%, which is the cost of borrowing money from the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) for irrigation development in Zimbabwe. The results of the financial analysis are presented in Table 16.

TABLE 16
Results of the financial and economic analysis of the irrigation schemes

Scheme Financial analysis Economic analysis
  FIRR (%) NPV (Z$) EIRR(%)
Chitora 85 230 947 90
Longdale 5 -13 595 8
Mambanjeni * -4 373 022 *
Murara 45 635 058 50
Mzinyathini 24 62 524 19
Ngezi Mamina * -25 042 648 *
Oatlands * -16 225 *
Principe 20 57 133 25
Rozva * -30 654 *
Wenimbi 68 410 965 71

*: FIRR and EIRR could not be computed because the cash flows are negative.

From Table 16 it transpires that Chitora, Murara, Mzinyathini, Principe and Wenimbi schemes are financially viable, while the rest are not viable. Using the FIRR as an indicator Chitora is the most viable scheme followed by Wenimbi. The viability of these schemes can be attributed to the high incomes derived by the farmers who grow high value horticultural crops. The FIRRs for all non-viable schemes, except Longdale, could not be computed because the cash flows are negative.

Economic analysis

Economic analysis was performed to assess the impact of the schemes from the point of view of the society. Shadow prices, which reflect the real value of projects, were used in the analysis. To arrive at the shadow prices, conversion factors have been used to adjust the financial prices. This adjustment is necessary to correct for various market distortions, including transfers, premiums on foreign exchange, etc. The conversion factors used are 0.78 for fertilizers, 0.9 for irrigation, 0.76 for chemicals, 0.4 for labour and 0.78 for energy. The conversion factors were derived from earlier work done by FAO in Zimbabwe (FAO, 1998)

The opportunity cost of capital used is 8.5%. The Economic Internal Rates of Return (EIRR) for the projects are presented in Table 16. The projects which were found to be financially viable are also economically viable as shown by the ERR. Chitora is the most economically viable scheme followed by Wenimbi. The economic parameters for Mambanjeni, Ngezi Mamina, Oatlands and Rozva schemes could not be calculated because the cash flows are negative.

Notes on the financial and economic analysis of the schemes

Care should be taken in the interpretation of the financial and economic analysis figures as presented in Table 16. The results reveal very useful information on the performance of the individual irrigation schemes but a direct comparison can not be made between the schemes due to the different conditions on each scheme. The details and conditions for the individual schemes, which should be read in conjunction with Table 16, are presented in Annex A.

The schemes Chitora, Wenimbi and Murara, with very high FIRR and EIRR, practice a cropping pattern dominated by high value horticultural crops with high returns. At the three schemes the main crops grown include some of the following: groundnuts, tomatoes, onion, peas, butternut, green pepper, rape, okra, cabbage carrots, green maize and cucumbers. The schemes Principe and Mzinyathini, practizing a mixed cropping of horticultural and field crops, demonstrated FIRR values of 20 - 24% and EIRR values of 19 - 25%. The cropping patterns for the other five irrigation schemes, which are shown to be non-viable, concentrate on low value field crops like grain maize and wheat. The successful Chitora, Wenimbi and Murara schemes also practice high cropping intensities, growing two to three (even four at times in the case of Chitora) crops per year.

Related to the production of high value horticultural crops by well performing schemes is the issue of marketing. If high returns are to be realized from the marketing of perishable horticultural crops, then there is need for easy access to markets and an organized marketing strategy. Chitora, Murara and Wenimbi schemes are very close to tarred main roads and linked with fairly good feeder roads. This makes access to the major towns like Harare and Mutoko for marketing of produce relatively easy. The marketing on these schemes is also well organized and the quality of produce from the schemes is high. It is important to note that the schemes which are not having marketing problems are relatively smaller in size (for example Chitora is 9 ha) as compared to the larger schemes (for example Ngezi Mamina is 216 ha) which can not easily market their produce. The volume of produce coming from the smaller schemes like Chitora is lower and can be easily disposed off on the market. The smaller groups of farmers at the smaller schemes can cooperate and organize themselves much easier as compared to a large group of farmers. This cooperation is important for the good performance of a scheme especially when it comes to activities like operation and maintenance, input acquisition and marketing.

In general the costs of a dam, constructed for irrigation purposes, constitute 70 - 80% of the total capital costs of the irrigation system development. For the irrigation schemes studied and indicating high FIRR and EIRR values it is important to note that they are not abstracting water from a dam and therefore have low cost headworks. This is particularly true for Chitora and Wenimbi schemes, where the headworks are made up of small electric pumps with direct abstraction from rivers. The conveyance pipeline for Chitora is small (the scheme area is only 9 ha) and short, as the irrigated fields are close to the water source. Although an old weir is in place for Wenimbi scheme, the costs of the weir were considered as sunk costs as it was already in place well before the scheme was planned and constructed. In the case of Murara, which is taking water from an old dam, the costs were also considered as a sunk cost in the economic and financial analysis. This is because the dam is very old and was originally built for domestic water supplies and livestock watering. It was already in existence when the irrigation scheme was planned and constructed. In the case of Mzinyathini scheme, the water is supplied from a dam constructed before 1965 (the year the actual irrigation scheme was constructed) and therefore was considered as a sunk cost. Principe scheme abstracts water directly from a weir across Mfurudzi river, using submersible pumps with water being released from a dam further upstream. The dam and weir were already in existence before the scheme was planned and constructed.

In contrast, schemes like Mambanjeni, Ngezi Mamina and Rozva, which are shown to be financially and economically non-viable, have expensive headworks (dam, weir, night pump and conveyance pipeline/canal) drawing water from dams which were constructed mainly for irrigation purposes. The irrigation systems in these schemes were either constructed simultaneously with the dams or immediately after the dam.

Problems facing the irrigation schemes

Transport

Lack of transport to the markets seems to be a problem for several schemes (Table 17). According to the farmers, transport is either not available or when it is available it is too expensive. The costs charged by transporters depend largely on the condition of the roads. For poor roads charges are very high. For example the Chitora farmers complained that transporters are shunning their scheme because their feeder road is in a bad state. Those transporters who accept to come to the scheme charge exorbitant prices.

Water availability

Wenimbi scheme faces water shortages in the dry winter season as a result of the system of water allocation being used in the country. The water allocation system uses the "priority date system" which dictates that in times of water shortages from a source being used by more than one user, the user who was granted a water right first will always have first priority of getting the water. Upstream of Wenimbi scheme there is a commercial farmer who has an earlier water right than the smallholder scheme. In times of water shortage in the Wenimbi weir the commercial farmer gets all the water causing shortages to the downstream Wenimbi smallholder scheme. Due to these shortages the farmers can not attain the intended 200% cropping intensity. However, at the time of writing this report the system of water allocation in Zimbabwe was being revised to ensure equitable distribution of water to all users in times of shortages.

Operation and maintenance

The government managed schemes, Ngezi Mamina, Mambanjeni and Rozva, often experience electricity cuts because of failure by government to pay the electricity bills in time. The pumps break down frequently, and the government takes time to repair them due to financial constraints. Longdale has problems with the imported pump. Spare parts for the pump are scarce and difficult to source. As a result, when the pump breaks down it takes time to repair it thus affecting the performance of the scheme.

The operation and maintenance of infrastructure is poor on government managed schemes. Hydrants are leaking both at Mambanjeni and Rozva. Hydrants are wrongly positioned at Mambanjeni causing poor water distribution during irrigation. Farmers at Murara, Mzinyathini and Rozva complained that their irrigation systems are labour intensive. They cited siphoning as the most difficult task. They would prefer systems that are less labour intensive.

Social problems

Rozva scheme has problems of conflicts between two kraal heads, whose subordinates are the scheme participants. The two kraal heads are also in the scheme with one being the chairman of the IMC. The two kraals can not work together. The conflict between the two kraals in the scheme dates back to the 1950s, well before the scheme started. One kraal accuses the other of being lazy, negative about the management of the scheme and does not want to cooperate. This social problem is affecting the performance of the scheme negatively.

TABLE 17
Problems facing the irrigation schemes (Source: Farmers and Extension Workers on the schemes, 1998)

Scheme Problems
Chitora Poor feeder road. High transport costs.
Longdale Frequent pump breakdown. Lack of spare parts for the pump. Cash flow problems.
Mambanjeni Poor cash flows. Low yields. Poor maintenance of infrastructure. Poor water distribution, Frequent shutdown of electricity.
Murara Silting of dam. Transport to market expensive.
Mzinyathini High transport costs.
Ngezi Mamina Frequent shutdown of electricity. Poor relations between farmers and institutions. Lack of inputs and draught power.
Oatlands Poor maintenance poor infrastructure, Cash flow problems.
Principe Some farmers do not pay O&M on time. Resettlement Officer interferes with scheme management.
Rozva Friction between two kraal heads. Poor maintenance of infrastructure. Waterlogging on some plots.
Wenimbi Shortage of water in winter. High transport costs to markets.

Socio-economic impact of the irrigation schemes

All the schemes studied had some positive impacts on the farmers, the surrounding areas and the economy in general. However, some schemes had more impact than others and generally farmer managed schemes seemed to have more positive impacts than government managed schemes. The impact of the schemes has been examined in the following areas:

Agricultural production

Farmer managed schemes, such as Chitora, Murara, Mzinyathini and Wenimbi, have resulted in higher crop yields than the yields found under rainfed agriculture. Irrigation has permitted the growing of crops that would not be grown under dryland conditions. The production of high value crops by some of these schemes, both for local and export markets, means that they are now effectively participating in the mainstream economy. Longdale has also managed to achieve higher yields during the first few years, but this was later on affected by frequent pump breakdowns. The government managed schemes have not managed to produce high value crops on a large scale and their yields have been low and not very different from dryland yields.

Incomes

High incomes have been reported for Chitora, Murara, Mzinyathini and Wenimbi schemes. Average annual incomes of Z$ 79 000 per farmer for Wenimbi, Z$ 60 000 for Chitora, Z$ 25 000 for Murara and Z$ 20 000 for Mzinyathini are substantially higher than the annual minimum wage of Z$ 16 800 paid to an unskilled worker in the Zimbabwean industry (Table 15). The schemes are providing gainful employment for the participants, as few household heads for these schemes are employed in towns (Table 18).

TABLE 18
Monthly average income from irrigated plot and percentage of household heads working in towns (Source: Farmers and Extension Workers on schemes, 1998)

Scheme Monthly average income from plot per farmer(Z$) Household heads working in towns as a percentage of total plot holders on the scheme
Chitora 5 000 0
Longdale 500 70
Mambanjeni 250 90
Murara 2 083 20 
Mzinyathini 1 667 30
Ngezi Mamina 250 80
Oatlands 167 100
Principe 1 250 *
Rozva 250 75
Wenimbi 6 583 5

*: Could not be established.

Table 18 also shows that Longdale, Mambanjeni, Ngezi Mamina, Oatlands and Rozva schemes have a lot of household heads working in towns. This can be attributed to the low incomes the families are deriving from the schemes which are not enough to sustain their daily living.

All farmer managed, schemes except Longdale, are giving high incomes to the farmers. These high incomes are mainly due to the cropping patterns being practised which incorporate high value horticultural crops. Government managed schemes are generating very little income for their farmers. Lack of commitment and poor cropping patterns are attributed to this

Labour

All the ten schemes hire labour to assist in land preparation, weeding and harvesting. Payment is in cash and/or in kind. Schemes that grow high value horticultural crops generate much more labour than schemes that concentrate on grain crops. This means that farmer managed schemes, which produce horticultural crops, provide more labour than government managed schemes. For example at Wenimbi scheme villagers prefer to work at the scheme rather than on neighbouring commercial farms because the scheme farmers pay more. At Wenimbi they are paid Z$ 20 per day plus vegetables as opposed to Z$ 15 per day and nothing else on the other farms.

Food security

The ten schemes were found to act as sources of food security for the participants and the surrounding communities. Schemes with high production levels, such as Chitora, Murara, Principe and Wenimbi, provide more food security than the low producing schemes. Some of the schemes like Murara, Mambanjeni and Mzinyathini are located in harsh climatic regions and act as important sources of food for the farmers and surrounding communities. The farmers in these schemes never run out of food as compared to their dryland counterparts. The payment of labour in kind by most schemes also ensures food security and better nutrition.

Drought relief savings

All the schemes that are performing well do not get drought relief from the government. Chitora, Murara, Mzinyathini, Principe and Wenimbi are examples of such schemes. Wenimbi, for example, created in 1998 an annual drought relief saving of Z$ 38 016. The figure is based on the current drought relief monthly ration of 10 kg per person, the then current Grain Marketing Board (GMB) maize price of Z$ 2 400 per ton, an average family size of six persons and a six month drought relief provision per year. This figure excludes the transport and administrative costs. If these were added the above costs would be higher. Those schemes that are performing badly run out of food during the year and get drought relief from the government.

It can be concluded that if a scheme is performing well, it can result in substantial savings for the government in terms of drought relief costs.

Conservation of natural resources

Principe and Murara in a way contribute towards the conservation of natural resources. While dryland farmers adjacent to these schemes engage in gold panning3 to earn a living, irrigators do not. By working in the irrigation schemes farmers are distracted from engaging in environment destructive activities like gold panning. In addition, gold panning is very risky and as such most non-irrigators prefer to work in the irrigation schemes for cash rather than to go for gold panning.

Assets

All schemes that are doing well in terms of crop production and income generation have had their participants acquiring various assets. Chitora farmers who were living with their parents when the scheme started have now brick walled houses of their own. They have all managed to buy farm implements, cattle and they are all married now. Four Wenimbi farmers have managed to buy a 5 tons truck, each using income derived from irrigation to buy it. Some three farmers on this scheme have managed to buy lighter vehicles. On those schemes that are performing badly most farmers have not managed to acquire any assets.

The conclusion that can be drawn from these observations on the ten schemes is that good schemes can permit the accumulation of wealth by the participants.

Gender aspects and technology

Surface systems are more labour intensive than sprinkler or localized systems. Women on the surface schemes Murara, Mzinyathini, Oatlands and Rozva complained of too much labour on the schemes. It's the women who on these schemes tend to provide the bulk of the labour required during irrigation.

Entrepreneurial skills

Most of the schemes have had their participants acquiring entrepreneurial skills. This is evidenced by the ability of the farmers to do their own budgeting, keep record books and manage their own affairs. These skills are most evident in farmer managed schemes. Farmers have to search for marketing information, organize cropping programmes which fit the markets, and organize transport to such markets. They are also capable of negotiating contracts, although they still need assistance in this aspect.

Backward and forward linkages

The increased demand for inputs from the local dealers, necessitated by the growing of horticultural crops in most schemes, is an example of the backward linkages offered by the irrigation schemes. All the ten schemes studied provide some degree of demand for inputs in their areas. Transport, which is hired for marketing by schemes such as Chitora, Murara and Wenimbi, is another example. Most dealers interviewed accepted that they are benefiting from the schemes. The fact that most schemes go for more than 150% cropping intensity means that most dealers are in business all year around. This is different from dealers who service dryland farmers and who experience brisk business only in summer.

The demand for scheme produce by some vegetable canning and grain processing private companies in Zimbabwe such as National Foods, Hortico, Olivine and Interfresh is an example of the forward linkages offered by irrigation schemes. By offering such produce, the schemes create businesses in the companies they supply.

Economic development

The fact that some irrigation schemes result in the increase in incomes for the farmers means that the schemes are promoting economic development of the nation, which is measured by the well-being of the people. The changes which occur to the people such as improved houses for farmers, better nutrition, self-independence, improved assets and so on are part of economic development. The high Economic Rates of Return obtained for Chitora, Murara, Mzinyathini, Principe and Wenimbi show that some irrigation projects can significantly contribute towards increasing national income (Table 16).

Reasons for successes or failures of the irrigation schemes

The study showed that the performance of the schemes depend on a number of factors (Table 19). The most important factors revealed by the study are the following:

Planning

Those schemes, which were planned and implemented with full farmer participation, are performing well as illustrated by the Chitora and Wenimbi schemes. The opposite is true for the schemes, which were planned without involving the farmers. Schemes which were planned by consultants without Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) experience are also performing badly as shown by the Ngezi Mamina, Mambanjeni and Rozva irrigation schemes.

Group cohesion

Projects whose farmers cooperate among themselves are doing well, while the schemes in which the farmers do not work together are failing. Cooperative action is important in activities such as marketing, transport hiring and O&M work.

Type of management

The type of management came out to be very important in the performance of the schemes. All farmer managed schemes, except Longdale which has some technical problems, are doing well. However, all government managed schemes are performing badly. The reason for this is that farmers in farmer managed schemes feel that the schemes belong to them and as such they invest heavily in them. In the government run schemes farmers have no sense of ownership and they are not worried about efficient utilisation of resources.

Type of irrigation technology

The type of irrigation technology, whether sprinkler or surface, affects the labour inputs and leisure time for the farmers. It appeared that sprinkler schemes require less labour, while surface systems are relatively more labour intensive. Farmers on the surface irrigation schemes complained of the high labour demands of the irrigation leaving very little time for other important activities like weeding, spraying and organizing marketing of produce.

TABLE 19
Reasons for irrigation schemes successes or failures (Source: Study findings, 1998)

Scheme Overall performance rating Reasons for success or failure
Chitora Very good
  • Good planning. Farmers were involved at the planning stages and so they have a sense of ownership.
  • Strong IMC.
  • Security of tenure.
  • Group cohesion.
  • Irrigation is valued.
  • Training was provided to farmers.
Longdale Poor
  • Frequent pump breakdown.
  • Lack of spare parts for the imported pump.
Mambanjeni Poor
  • Poor planning. Farmers were not involved at the planning stage and hence they have no sense of ownership.
  • Poor maintenance of the system.
  • Poor designs.
  • Poor construction, as hydrants are not in position.
  • Low levels of inputs.
Murara Good
  • Good planning. Farmers were involved at the planning stages and so they have a sense of ownership.
  • Group cohesion.
  • Security tenure.
Mzinyathini Good
  • Good planning. Farmers were involved at the planning stages and so they have a sense of ownership.
  • Irrigation is valued. The fact that the scheme is in NR IV makes irrigation very much important.
  • Security of tenure.
Ngezi Mamina Poor
  • Poor relations between farmers and various institutions.
  • Poor water management.
  • Poor O & M.
  • No group cohesion.
  • Poor cropping pattern dominated by low value crops.
  • Poor marketing strategies.
  • Irrigation is not valued.
Oatlands Poor
  • Poor planning. Farmers were not involved at the planning stage and as such they have no sense of ownership.
  • Irrigation is not valued. Farmers concentrate on their dryland plots in summer, leaving part of their irrigation plots unattended.
  • Inheritance issue is not clear.
  • Farmers received no training.
  • Management of infrastructure poor.
  • No group cohesion.
Principe Average
  • Secure water supply.
  • Strong IMC.
  • Group cohesion.
  • However the above strengths are negatively affected by :
    1. Some farmers who are not capable of meeting their O & M obligations.
    2. Poor selection of farmers.
    3. Interference by government officials, especially the Resettlement Officer, on allocation of vacant plots.
    4. Insecurity of tenure.
Rozva Poor
  • Poor planning. Farmers only participated as hired labour during construction, so they have no sense of ownership.
  • Conflicts between the two kraals.
  • Poor O & M by the government.
  • Irrigation is not valued. Farmers prefer dryland since they are in a high agricultural potential area.
  • Crops grown are of low value.
  • No group work.
Wenimbi Good
  • Sense of ownership.
  • Good O & M.
  • Group work (especially on marketing).
  • Strong IMC.
  • Security of tenure.
  • AGRITEX support.

Strength of Irrigation Management Committees

Generally irrigation schemes with strong and effective IMCs are doing well.

Reliability of water supply

Secure water supply is important for the attainment of higher cropping intensities. For example Wenimbi, which is affected by water shortages in winter, can not attain the intended 200% cropping intensity.

Cropping patterns

Schemes, which concentrate on high value crops, are doing better than those cultivating traditional grain crops.

Marketing

Schemes that seek lucrative markets are doing better than those that prefer to sell locally.

Sources of capital items

Schemes that have imported capital items have problems in acquiring spare parts, and hence their performances are affected negatively.

The broader context

Agriculture in Zimbabwe is the mainstay of the economy and a source of livelihood for the country's rural population. Yet its growth over the past decade has been inadequate to meet the needs of the growing population. The average growth in the gross agricultural product of 2.5% per year is well below the government's target of 3.2% set out in its economic reform programmes. It is clear that unless we can achieve an average growth in farm production that is substantially higher than the population growth rate, estimated at 3.2% from the 1992 national census, then the future for the people of Zimbabwe is of serious concern. While large-scale commercial farmers are doing their best to increase agricultural production, the smallholder farmers are still lagging behind. As such, the long-term development in agriculture in Zimbabwe is based on realizing the potential of smallholder agriculture. Raising the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers is the most direct route towards achieving agricultural growth. The major constraints facing these smallholders are persistent droughts and harsh climatic conditions in the areas they live. More than 80% of the smallholder farmers live in the rural areas, depending largely on agriculture for food security, incomes and employment. Most of these farmers live in Natural Regions III, IV, and V, where rainfall is erratic and unreliable thereby making dryland cultivation a risky business, thus seriously constraining them to commercialize their agricultural activities.

Irrigation can be the answer to the above problems and can permit the farmers to operate on commercial lines. The high yields obtained at Chitora and Wenimbi schemes for example strongly substantiate this point. Most of the farmers have adopted some stringent farm management practices, such as record keeping, which helps to keep track and continuously assess their profits. The high levels of inputs used in most irrigation schemes also indicate that the farmers have developed a commercial mentality. The other benefits that can accrue from irrigation development as shown by the study of the ten schemes are as follows:

Impact on incomes

The development of smallholder irrigation schemes can result in substantially high incomes for the smallholder farmers. In Wenimbi, for example, the incomes are as high as Z$ 6 583 per farmer per month (each farmer having a 1.55 ha plot holding), while dryland incomes can be as little as Z$ 1 250 per farmer per month (considering a 5 ha dryland plot holding)

Irrigation affords farmers a means to be gainfully employed away from urban centres. The earnings from the irrigation schemes far exceed the industrial minimum wage for unskilled labour in Zimbabwe of Z$ 1 400 per worker per month, thus giving every reason for the government to channel more resources to smallholder irrigation development.

Effect on food security

Zimbabwe's food situation is characterized by food insecurity at both micro and macro levels. The major area of concern is the availability of food at household level. The country is able to produce most of its cereal requirements and in normal years manages to export to neighbouring countries. However, this national level of security is not translated to household level. There is need to address the issue of distribution and effective demand. Poverty and the lack of an effective distribution system cause household food insecurity.

Zimbabwe's national target is to achieve food security both at national and household levels. To achieve this, specific programmes are needed to address the two sides of the food security equation: availability of food through increased production and storage, and access to food through family production, purchasing on the market and through effective food transfer programme.

Smallholder irrigation can lead to availability of food at household level through increased productivity, stable production and increased incomes as shown by the analysis of the ten irrigation schemes. It appeared that all the ten schemes offer some form of food security for the participants and the surrounding communities.

Drought relief savings

The Government of Zimbabwe has spent large amounts of money since 1980 on drought relief. Irrigation development can contribute towards drought savings. The importance of irrigation in drought relief savings can be illustrated by a comparative analysis of the cost of a drought relief programme and the investment required in irrigation to obtain a similar relief.

Under the drought relief programme at least 550 kg of maize is supplied annually to each family of six persons. Considering, for example, 1 000 families living in Natural Region V, where rainfall is erratic, unreliable and inadequate for any meaningful dryland cultivation, these families would require 550 tons of maize per year if placed on a drought relief programme. The government expenditure in 1998 to purchase this quantity of maize at Z$ 2 400 per ton would be Z$ 1.32 million. The estimated transport cost would be Z$ 110 000 and the administrative cost amount to another Z$ 200 000, leading to a total annual drought relief cost of Z$ 1.63 million.

The question now is can smallholder irrigation schemes produce the equivalent of drought relief requirements and at what cost? If an average yield of 6 tons/ha is assumed for maize in the smallholder schemes, 92 ha would be needed to produce 550 tons annually. The total cost of developing 92 ha at Z$ 70 000 per ha in 1998 is Z$ 6.44 million. The annual financial equivalent (which is obtained by multiplying the investment cost by the capital recovery factor for 20 years at a 9.75% discount rate) is Z$ 0.74 million. The production costs for maize produced on 92 ha is about Z$ 0.37 million. This means the total annual cost of producing maize is Z$ 1.11 million.

Comparing both costs shows that the cost of irrigation is Z$ 0.52 million less than the cost of drought relief. Furthermore, the experience with drought relief is that often it does not get to people who need it most. In addition, under normal circumstances a complete drought relief package includes other commodities such as beans which, if included, can double the cost of drought relief thereby making irrigation even much more attractive.

Clearly smallholder irrigation is important as a development strategy since it results in government savings and ensures access to food by smallholder farmers.

Impact on employment

The economic situation, which prevails in Zimbabwe right now, is that the formal sector (which is the dynamic part of the economy) contributes a greater part of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This sector however only employs about 20% of the labour force (1 million people), while the remaining 80% of the labour force is employed in the informal sector. The development of the informal and rural sectors is therefore important as a way to reduce unemployment in Zimbabwe. It will also help reducing the rural to urban migration, which has reached critical levels. According to the 1992 Zimbabwe National Census, among the country's ten provinces the major urban centres Harare and Bulawayo exhibited the highest in-migration rates, at 54.7% and 53.1% respectively (CSO, 1992). The influx of people into these two and other centres exerts phenomenal pressure on the urban municipalities in their attempt to provide adequate services such as housing, water, sewerage, education and health. The need therefore to curb high rates of rural to urban movement is a challenge to the Government. Agriculture, which is viewed as the most important potential employer of rural people, is not achieving its objectives because of constraints posed by weather. Without irrigation, rural people are not assured of any meaningful incomes, so they tend to move into cities. It is therefore important to give rural people water to improve their incomes and subsequent standards of living. The reduction in rural to urban migration can also be a saving for the urban municipalities as they will no longer need to provide services for the migrators.

Cash crops grown under irrigation can directly create employment in the field, through forward and backward linkages, and indirectly through multiplier effects. In the field cash crops require more labour input per unit land than non-cash crops and hired labour input tends to be higher for cash than non-cash crops. For example, 1 ha of irrigated tomato (or any other vegetable) at Chitora or Wenimbi requires 120 days of hired labour for planting, weeding, harvesting and marketing over a period of four months. At a rate of Z$ 20 per labour day, this translates to Z$ 2 400 per hectare for one crop only. The farmers at Chitora and Wenimbi reported that over a year 1 ha requires more than Z$12 000 for hired labour. Considering Wenimbi scheme which is 34ha, hired labour will require over Z$ 408 000 per year. This means the scheme can employ about 56 people permanently for 1 year at the agricultural minimum wage in Zimbabwe of Z$ 600 per month.

Equitable distribution of wealth

Soon after independence, the government of Zimbabwe adopted a policy of growth with equity and transformation and this policy has been carried over into the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) and its successor, the Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation (ZIMPREST). The government philosophy in this respect is:

The welfare of the people depends largely on the attainment of sustainable rapid economic growth and development and an equitable distribution of income and wealth. Given a rapidly growing population, distribution without economic growth and development leads to decline and deterioration in living standards and hence to a decline in the welfare of the people. Conversely, growth with non-equitable distribution of income and wealth, while benefiting a few, diminishes the welfare of the society as a whole and invariably leads to socio-political instability.

Looking at the agricultural sector in line with the above philosophy, it seems that only a small proportion of the population (about 4 500 commercial farmers) is cushioned against the vagaries of weather through the irrigation systems they have developed. The smallholder farmers have limited access to water resources and finance for irrigation development. The smallholders are therefore disadvantaged to participate in the mainstream economy. It is important to develop irrigation schemes as a means of maximizing the welfare of the majority of people in Zimbabwe. There is no way the above philosophy can be achieved with the existing agricultural system in the rural areas.

Backward and forward linkages

Irrigated farming can create economic backward and forward linkages. Backward linkages will take the form of creating and enhancing business activities for those dealing in farm inputs. This is due to the fact that high value crops, which are grown under irrigation, rely heavily on recommendations for improved purchased agricultural inputs. This has positive employment implications for agricultural input industries, which is particularly important in the seed industry because most seed is produced locally. Even though the impact on the fertilizer and pesticides industries is not yet fully realized locally, such expenditures contribute to increased labour use in the marketing and distribution sectors.

Forward linkages can occur if irrigation leads to cash cropping, which no doubt would be the case as the cost of setting up an irrigation system may have to be justified by producing cash crops for the market. This production of crops for sell will promote agro-industries and will lead to increased employment opportunities and increased standards of living. As food insecurity at the household level is usually caused by lack of purchasing power, irrigation brings extra income to the farmers, thus enabling them to access food. These effects have been reflected in the analysis of the ten schemes.

Impact on the management of natural resources

Soil erosion has been recognized in Zimbabwe as a long-term problem that needs to be addressed. Elwell and Stocking (1988) estimated that the country is losing Z$ 1.5 billion worth of nitrogen and phosphorus each year from arable lands and 2.5 million tons of organic matter essential for soil fertility. This loss of nutrients, accompanied by environmental deterioration, poses tremendous implications for agricultural development in Zimbabwe. With the average demographic rate of 3.2% per year against an average agricultural output of about 2.5% per year, the area for dryland cropping is expected to increase. This will further aggravate the existing situation where large tracts of land are without vegetation cover. Consequently more land will be exposed to soil erosion leading to losses in arable and grazing lands, siltation of rivers and reservoirs, dissected landforms and gullies. This form of degradation severely reduces productivity.

Irrigation development, when properly planned, implemented and managed, provides a real opportunity to conserve the land in the face of ever increasing human and livestock population. The potentials are many and they present themselves in a variety of forms. Some of these follow below:

Due to the increasing shortage of arable lands in the communal areas, marginal areas (shallow soils, salt affected soils, foothills and mountain slopes) are under crops. This results in extremely serious erosion and land degradation. Irrigation development takes place on relatively smaller and concentrated plots. This prevents encroachment onto unsuitable land that could be easily degraded. In fact, where irrigation is developed, the current arable lands can be released for other, less degrading uses. Although this benefit did not come out clearly from the study of the ten schemes, it is worth mentioning.

While there are cases of soil degrading activities that are carried out due to ignorance, many people fail to conserve the environment due to lack of financial resources. Irrigation gives farmers that additional income which they can use in such activities as:

There is prevalence of unemployment in the country. Consequently, some people have resorted to land degrading activities, such as gold panning, as a way of earning a living. For example, dryland farmers at Murara and Principe schemes carry out this activity. Gold panning is highly destructive to the environment. Apart from the physical damage to the land, some of the chemicals used, such as mercury, are highly toxic to the environment. However irrigation, when properly practiced, can provide alternative employment and a more environmentally friendly source of livelihood.


2 The Horticultural Promotional Council (HPC) is an organization that assists horticulture farmers in Zimbabwe in the sourcing and supplying of external markets with horticultural produce.

3 Gold panning is a process whereby people illegally dig deeper channels on the river banks in search for gold. This process is highly dangerous for both humans and the environment. During the digging process the channels usually collapse resulting in injuries or even deaths of the panners. The process also results in the formation of gullies, soil degradation and subsequent siltation of rivers.

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