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Prospects for agricultural water management
Despite the government’s will since independence to extend the smallholder irrigation sector, up to the FTLRP irrigation was mostly practiced by large commercial farms. After the split of the large commercial irrigated farms, challenges faced by the newly resettled farmers to increase the areas equipped for irrigation that are actually irrigated include the need to:
- rehabilitate the irrigation schemes and, in some cases, convert them from single-user systems to multi-users systems
- be trained in irrigation management for a more efficient and sustainable irrigated agriculture
- rebuild and/or create the institutional capacity for IMCs to organize the use of common irrigation infrastructure
The need for a national irrigation master plan or irrigation policy and strategy is urgent to be able to organize potential and new irrigators, as well as to prioritize rehabilitation of as many non-functional irrigation schemes as possible before they are completely destroyed. Such irrigation strategy should also include a clear policy on dambo cultivation in order to both promote their sustainable use and restrict the extent of their cultivation to ensure environmental protection.
Once the area equipped for irrigation is made functional again, the limiting factors for further development will be water availability and capital. Two next steps, which could further enable the expansion of irrigation, are: (i) full utilization of the water available in state dams; it is estimated that between 6 000 ha (GoZ, 2013) to 9 000 ha could be irrigated with the water remaining in the existing reservoirs; (ii) rehabilitation of the schemes dedicated to using treated wastewater. Finally, with larger funding requirements, about 30 000 hectares could be developed to add on to existing irrigation schemes in the communal areas, and another 30 000 hectares of irrigated land could arise from the construction of major dams (FAO et al., 2004), such as the recently completed Tokwe-Mukosi dam. By 2020, an additional 6 million m3 of dam capacity is required to match the water demand (AfDB, 2011).