Impact and sustainability of low-head drip irrigation kits, in the semi-arid Gwanda and Beitbridge Districts, Mzingwane Catchment, Limpopo Basin, Zimbabwe

Type Journal Article - Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C
Title Impact and sustainability of low-head drip irrigation kits, in the semi-arid Gwanda and Beitbridge Districts, Mzingwane Catchment, Limpopo Basin, Zimbabwe
Volume 31
Issue 15
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2006
Page numbers 885-892
Resource-poor smallholder farmers in the semi-arid Gwanda and Beitbridge districts face food insecurity on an annual basis due to a combination of poor and erratic rainfall (average 500 mm/a and 345 mm/a, respectively, for the period 1970–2003) and technologies inappropriate to their resource status. This impacts on both household livelihoods and food security. In an attempt to improve food security in the catchment a number of drip kit distribution programmes have been initiated since 2003 as part of an on-going global initiative aimed at 2 million poor households per year. A number of recent studies have assessed the technical performance of the drip kits in-lab and in-field.

In early 2005 a study was undertaken to assess the impacts and sustainability of the drip kit programme. Representatives of the NGOs, local government, traditional leadership and agricultural extension officers were interviewed. Focus group discussions with beneficiaries and other villagers were held at village level. A survey of 114 households was then conducted in two districts, using a questionnaire developed from the output of the interviews and focus group discussions.

The results from the study showed that the NGOs did not specifically target the distribution of the drip kits to poor members of the community (defined for the purpose of the study as those not owning cattle). Poor households made up 54% of the beneficiaries. This poor targeting of vulnerable households could have been a result of conditions set by some implementing NGOs that beneficiaries must have an assured water source. On the other hand, only 2% of the beneficiaries had used the kit to produce the expected 5 harvests over the 2 years, owing to problems related to water shortage, access to water and also pests and diseases. About 51% of the respondents had produced at least 3 harvests and 86% produced at least 2 harvests. Due to water shortages during the dry season 61% of production with the drip kit occurred during the wet season. This suggests that most households use the drip kits as supplementary irrigation. Conflicts between beneficiaries and water point committees or other water users developed in some areas especially during the dry season.

The main finding from this study was that low cost drip kit programs can only be a sustainable intervention if implemented as an integral part of a long-term development program, not short-term relief programs and the programme should involve a broad range of stakeholders. A first step in any such program, especially in water scarce areas such as Gwanda and Beitbridge, is a detailed analysis of the existing water resources to assess availability and potential conflicts, prior to distribution of drip kits.

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