Volume 33, Issue 5

September 2017
Special Issue on The Productivity and Profitability of Small Scale Communal Irrigation Systems in South-eastern Africa

Editorial »

Exploring the productivity and profitability of small-scale communal irrigation systems in Sub-Saharan Africa

Henning Bjornlund and Jamie Pittock

Research Article

Profitability and productivity barriers and opportunities in small-scale irrigation schemes

Henning Bjornlunda, Andre van Rooyenb and Richard Stirzakerc
aSchool of Commerce, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia; bICRISAT, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; cCSIRO, Canberra, Australia

Contact: Andre van Rooyen | Email: A.vanRooyen@cgiar.org


Irrigation development in Sub-Saharan Africa has lagged significantly behind that in other developing countries. Consequently, economic development and food security are also lagging behind. Since the mid-2000s there has been a resurgence in the willingness to invest in irrigation, and Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest potential of any developing region to benefit from it. However, to gain from new investment in irrigation without repeating past failures, it is critical to develop a business model for small-scale irrigation schemes. This article explores the barriers that such a model needs to address to be successful and the opportunities this represents for irrigators’ profitability.

Pages: 690–704

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2016.1263552 (Open Access)

Research Article

Irrigation and crop diversification in the 25 de Setembro irrigation scheme, Mozambique

Wilson de Sousaa, Raphaelle Ducrotb, Paiva Munguambea, Henning Bjornlundc, Andre Machavaa, Etevaldo Cheveiaa and Joaquim Faducoa
aNational Institute for Irrigation, Maputo, Mozambique; bCIRA D–UMR G-eau/Research Unit on Water Management, Actors and Uses, Montpellier, France; cSchool of Commerce, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

Contact: Wilson de Sousa | Email: wilsondesousa@live.com


Crop diversification is one way of improving the profitability of smallscale irrigation schemes. The 25 de Setembro scheme is an ideal site to analyze diversification, as it is influenced by the markets in Maputo and South Africa. This study uses information gathered from observations, discussions with irrigators and an irrigator survey. Results identified seven irrigator types with different crop diversification strategies predominantly influenced by resource constraints. Most irrigators produce traditional crops, although there are opportunities for growing crops that are more profitable. Improved extension services, to identify cropping strategies that better align with market demand, would improve profitability.

Pages: 705–724

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2016.1262246 (Open Access)

Research Article

Barriers to and opportunities for improving productivity and profitability of the Kiwere and Magozi irrigation schemes in Tanzania

Makarius V. Mdemua, Nuru Mzirayb, Henning Bjornlundc and Japhet J. Kashaigilid
aDepartment of Regional Development Planning, Ardhi University, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; bDepartment of Civil and Irrigation Engineering, Arusha Technical College, Tanzania; cUniversity of South Australia Business School, Australia; dFaculty of Forestry and Nature Conservation, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania

Contact: Makarius V. Mdemu | Email: mak_mdemu@yahoo.co.uk


Irrigation is a key strategy for food security and poverty alleviation among small farmers in Tanzania. However, the potential of irrigation to improve food security is limited by multiple barriers. This article discusses these barriers within the Kiwere and Magozi schemes. Results indicate that water supply barriers are caused by poor irrigation infrastructure and management. Lack of finance is also a critical barrier to increasing overall productivity. Finance affects farmers’ timely access to adequate supply of quality inputs and machinery and availability of transport to access inputs and profitable markets. There is evidence that these barriers have to be addressed holistically.

Pages: 725–739

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2016.1188267 (Open Access)

Research Article

Irrigation development in Zimbabwe: understanding productivity barriers and opportunities at Mkoba and Silalatshani irrigation schemes

M. Moyoa, A. van Rooyena, M. Moyoa, P. Chivengea and H. Bjornlundb
aInternational Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; bSchool of Commerce, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

Contact: M. Moyo | Email: m.moyo@cgiar.org


Productivity barriers and opportunities influencing smallholder irrigation sustainability in Zimbabwe were identified using case studies of the Silalatshani and Mkoba irrigation schemes. The major barriers were poor infrastructure and soil fertility, and poor access to farm inputs, farm implements, functioning markets and agricultural knowledge, which resulted in low yields, food insecurity and negative farm income. Most irrigated land remains unused, and marketing of produce is uncoordinated. Mobile technologies provide opportunities for market information dissemination. Institutions are needed to continuously encourage dialogue among agricultural value chain stakeholders to allow irrigators to align their operations to market demands and improve the viability of irrigation systems.

Pages: 740–754

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2016.1175339 (Open Access)

Research Article

An overview of extension use in irrigated agriculture and case studies in south-eastern Africa

Sarah Ann Wheelera,b, Alec Zuoa,b, Henning Bjornlundb, Makarius Victor Mdemuc, Andre van Rooyend and Paiva Munguambee
aCentre for Global Food and Resources, University of Adelaide, Australia; bSchool of Commerce, University of South Australia, Adelaide; cDepartment of Regional Development Planning, Ardhi University, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; dICRISATPO, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; eMinistério da Agricultura e Segurança Alimentar, Instituto Nacional de Irrigação, Maputo, Tanzania

Contact: Sarah Ann Wheeler | Email: sarah.wheeler@adelaide.edu.au


This study provides an overview of extension influence on the adoption of irrigation innovations in developed and developing countries, and finds that extension plays a more significant positive role in influencing soft technology adoption in developing countries. Case studies on the nature, use and availability of extension advice in six irrigation schemes in Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are presented. The use of government extension officers varied significantly, with extension use not linked to farm outcomes. The results suggest the need to support more diverse sources of advice and to promote institutional reform in south-eastern Africa.

Pages: 755–769

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2016.1225570 (Open Access)

Research Article

Income inequality within smallholder irrigation schemes in Sub-Saharan Africa

Ana Maneroa,b
aCrawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra; bSchool of Commerce, University of South Australia, Adelaide

Contact: Ana Manero | Email: ana.manero@anu.edu.au


Equitable income distribution is recognized as critical for poverty reduction, particularly in developing areas. Most of the existing literature is based on region- or country-wide data; fewer empirical studies exist at community levels. This article examines income disparities within six smallholder irrigation schemes in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Mozambique, comparing inequality at local and national levels, as well as decomposing inequality by group and by source. The results present significant contrasts between schemes and compared to national figures. This evidences that, inadvertently, nation-wide strategies may overlook high inequality at smaller scales, and thus, development policies should be tailored to the specific areas of intervention.

Pages: 770–787

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2016.1152461 (Open Access)

Research Article

A soil water and solute learning system for small-scale irrigators in Africa

Richard Stirzakera, Ikenna Mbakweb and Nuru Ressa Mzirayc
aCSIRO Agriculture and Food, Canberra, Australia; bDepartment of Plant Production and Soil Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa; cCivil Engineering Department, Arusha Technical College, Arusha, Tanzania

Contact: Richard Stirzaker | Email: richard.stirzaker@csiro.au


Better yields of high-value crops are necessary for a profitable irrigation industry in sub-Saharan Africa. We introduced two simple tools, the Chameleon soil moisture sensor and the FullStop wetting front detector, which represent soil water, nitrate and salt levels in the soil by displaying different colours. These tools form the basis of an experiential learning system for small-scale irrigators. We found that farmers quickly learned from the tools and changed their management within a short time. The cost of implementing a learning system would be a small fraction of that of building or revitalizing irrigation schemes.

Pages: 788–803

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2017.1320981 (Open Access)

Research Article

Theory and application of Agricultural Innovation Platforms for improved irrigation scheme management in Southern Africa

André F. van Rooyena, Peter Ramshawb, Martin Moyoa, Richard Stirzakerc and Henning Bjornlundd
aInternational Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; bFenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia; cCommonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Canberra, Australia; dSchool of Commerce, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

Contact: André F. van Rooyen | Email: a.vanrooyen@cgiar.org


Many small-scale irrigation systems are characterized by low yields and deteriorating infrastructure. Interventions often erroneously focus on increasing yields and rehabilitating infrastructure. Smallscale irrigation systems have many of the characteristics of complex socio-ecological systems, with many different actors and numerous interconnected subsystems. However, the limited interaction between the different subsystems and their agents prevents learning and the emergence of more beneficial outcomes. This article reports on using Agricultural Innovation Platforms to create an environment in which irrigation scheme actors can engage, experiment, learn and build adaptive capacity to increase market-related offtake and move out of poverty.

Pages: 804–823

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2017.1321530 (Open Access)

Research Article

Irrigating Africa: policy barriers and opportunities for enhanced productivity of smallholder farmers

Sithembile Ndema Mwamakambaa, Lindiwe Majele Sibandaa, Jamie Pittockb, Richard Stirzakerc, Henning Bjornlundd, Andre van Rooyene, Paiva Munguambef, Makarius Victor Mdemug and Japhet J. Kashaigilih
aFood and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, Pretoria, South Africa; bFenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Acton, Australia; cCSIRO Agriculture, Acton, Australia; dSchool of Commerce, University of South Australia Business School, Adelaide; eInternational Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; fMinistério da Agricultura e Segurança Alimentar, National Institute for Irrigation, Maputo, Mozambique; gDepartment of Regional Development Planning, School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ardhi University, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; hFaculty of Forestry and Nature Conservation, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania

Contact: Jamie Pittock | Email: Jamie.pittock@anu.edu.au


African governments have ambitious plans to expand irrigated agriculture, though existing smallholder schemes have largely failed to use land and water sustainably or become profitable. Six government-owned irrigation schemes in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe were assessed to identify common policy barriers and opportunities for higher productivity among smallholder farmers. Issues like insecure land tenure systems, unclear institutional arrangements and poor access to markets have contributed to limited profitability. Reform of currently insecure land tenure, strengthening farmer organizations and reforming policies are recommended so that governments step back from scheme management and foster market linkages to enable more profitable irrigated agriculture.

Pages: 824–838

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2017.1321531 (Open Access)

Research Article

Communal irrigation systems in South-Eastern Africa: findings on productivity and profitability

Jamie Pittocka, Henning Bjornlundb, Richard Stirzakerc and Andre van Rooyend
aFenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia; bSchool of Commerce, University of South Australia Business School, Adelaide, Australia; cCSIRO Agriculture, Canberra, Australia; dInternational Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Contact: Jamie Pittock | Email: Jamie.pittock@anu.edu.au


Significant expansion of irrigated agriculture is planned in Africa, though existing smallholder schemes perform poorly. Research at six schemes in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe shows that a range of problems are exacerbated by poor management, with limited market linkages leading to underutilization and a lack of profit. Improving sustainability of these complex systems will require: multiple interventions at different scales; investing in people and institutions as much as hardware; clarity in governments’ objectives for their smallholder irrigation schemes; appropriate business models to enable farmers; and better market linkages.

Pages: 839–847

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2017.1324768 (Open Access)