Irrigation water management for food security and income generation in smallholder farming systems

Zimbabwe has made significant investments in irrigation development compared to other countries in the region, but water is increasingly becoming scarce in the country because of growing competing demands for the resource among agriculture, domestic and industrial uses. Several smallholder irrigation schemes have been developed in the country with the aim of increasing food security, but return on investments has been unsatisfactory and their functionality has remained largely low due to a number of interrelated factors. Among them; infrastructure deficiencies, unfavorable land tenure arrangements and small land holdings, poor management, inadequate access to markets, and lack of technical knowledge for maintaining irrigation infrastructure and water management. In most schemes irrigation scheduling is lacking and farmers are not trained to manage water; water management is mainly to ensure equitable distribution among farmers to avoid conflicts. However, it is important to manage irrigation water in each of the schemes if maximum benefits of the investments made are to be realized. Consequently, research on finding ways to improve water productivity in smallholder irrigation schemes in Zimbabwe remains pertinent.