Trajectory from government-managed to farmer-managed smallholder irrigation and its effects on productivity, operation and maintenance: An analysis of Mamina Smallholder Irrigation Scheme in Zimbabwe
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Government's decision to devolve irrigation management to farmers was partly influenced by international policy imperatives, which were propounded mainly by institutions associated with the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the inability by the government to continue funding operation and maintenance costs. The central question of the study is to understand the effects of Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT) on productivity, operation and maintenance in the Mamina Irrigation Scheme. Interviews with various primary and secondary stakeholders that included the irrigators, local political leadership and locally-based agriculture extension officers were carried out. The interviews were aimed at getting an insight on land tenure, participation and representation of women, water and electricity supply system and pricing, effects of irrigation management arrangements on equity and productivity, understanding the irrigators' food security status, operation and maintenance arrangement after Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT). Findings of this study suggest that the existing governance arrangements have partly led to low crop productivity, increased water and electricity bill arrears, poor water distribution, change to uneconomic plot sizes, unsustainable increase in the number of irrigators, failure to organise for operation and maintenance. The key factors influencing the poor performance include poor collaboration, pumping system that utilised more electricity, inability of the irrigators to replace leaky pipes, failure of the irrigators to contribute towards electricity and water bills, failure of the irrigators to contribute towards operation and maintenance. The study identified nine challenges that affected the success of IMT. The challenges that lay at the heart of Mamina irrigation scheme were mainly caused by the poor irrigation technology design, pricing structure of electricity, water permit system, inequalities in water distribution, low gender participation and representation, non-availability of formal markets for certain crops, food insecurity, plot alloction and land disputes. Poverty analysis has shown that the irrigators' ability to escape from poverty or food insecurity is critically dependent upon their access to assets. Different assets are required to achieve different livelihood outcomes. The cycle of accumulation of utility bill arrears continued even after devolution because the same defective irrigation infrastructure was transferred to the irrigators. In the case of Mamina irrigation scheme, modernisation of the scheme was required to achieve different livelihood outcomes, but because this did not happen the recurrent utility bill arrears, low productivity and food insecurity continued to be a very serious challenge even after IMT.