Transforming small-scale irrigation in Zimbabwe

Most government-run irrigation schemes in Africa have failed or are significantly under-performing, for a complex array of reasons. However, the ANU led research project supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Increasing irrigation water productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through on-farm monitoring, adaptive management and agricultural innovation platforms (AIPs), found that AIPs combined with soil moisture and nutrient measuring can substantially increase crop yields and incomes of farmers, and make irrigation schemes more self-sustaining.

These improved yields, profits and problem-solving were achieved before infrastructure investments were made in Tanzania and Zimbabwe, thereby strengthening the likely benefit and sustainability of future infrastructure investments. The project enabled smallholder farmers and related stakeholders to achieve success in a traditionally difficult sector, which is also currently a top priority for African governments and international donors. With further support from ACIAR, we are now testing how best to spread those findings beyond individual irrigation schemes to many other schemes in these countries. Dr André F van Rooyen will present findings from the Zimbabwe research.

About the speaker

André is Principal Scientist specializing in integrated agricultural systems in the research program on Innovation Systems for Drylands, at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He uses the characteristics of complex adaptive systems to analyse system functionality and explore opportunities to improve and develop more diverse and integrated agricultural systems.

Working in both dryland and irrigation systems where cereal crops, legumes and livestock complement each another, utilizes AIPs, working with a diverse range of value chain players, to improve both on-farm production and market integration. His work is based on the hypotheses that integrated agricultural systems, linked to functional markets, increase land, labour and water productivity, resulting in increased system efficiency and environmental sustainability, while providing routes out of poverty for small scale farmers.