Can drip irrigation improve the livelihoods of smallholders? Lessons learned from Zimbabwe:Global Theme on Agroecosystems Report no. 33 uri icon

abstract

  • It is estimated that one third of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa is malnourished. Strategies to mitigate the effects of poor agricultural productivity and drought involve developing the continent?s unexploited irrigation potential. One intervention, based on successes from Asia, which shows promisein improving household nutrition in the rural areas through better vegetable production, is small-scale drip irrigation. This system is said to save water and labor. Since 2002, some 70,000 low-cost, low-head drip irrigation kits have been distributed through humanitarian relief initiatives in the rural areas ofZimbabwe. In the dry season of 2006, a country-wide survey was undertaken in Zimbabwe to determine the impacts of drip kits that had been delivered to needy households. Survey results showed that disadoption of drip kits occurred as a function of time and after 3 years only 16% of the kits were still being used. Reasons for disadoption included lack of water, lack of understanding of the drip kit concept, and, more importantly, a lack of technical support and follow up by the non-governmental organizations that distributed the kits and the extension services. A cost-effectiveness analysis showed that drip kits are more cost-effective than traditional hand watering only when potential water savings are achieved. However, this was hardly ever the case due to the benefi ciaries? lack of knowledge on crop water requirements when using the kits and a perception that the soil surface should be wet. Consequently, the study concluded that a relatively complex technology such as drip kits should not be part of short-term relief programs, but should instead be embedded in long-term developmental programs that involve both the public and private sector. This will ensure that appropriate technical support is provided in terms of crop management and the development of supply chains for spare parts and additional kits

publication date

  • 2007