News

2022

The influences on farmers’ planned and actual farm adaptation decisions: Evidence from small-scale irrigation schemes in south-eastern Africa (2022, Journal article)

Studies are scarce linking planned farmer adaptation practices with their actual practices over time. This study addresses this gap by investigating planned and actual adaptation behaviour, using data collected in 2014 and 2017, from various irrigation schemes in south-eastern Africa. Four planned farm adaptation indexes were created and analysed, with findings suggesting that land size, previous adaptation experience and credit access were positively associated with all types of adaptation. The results from the two waves of survey analysis also indicated very different influences between planned and actual practices, with the proportion of farmers actually undertaking a particular practice far greater than those who planned to undertake it. This result might be related to the project intervention within the study schemes, where numerous factors previously hampering irrigation were resolved, increasing farmers' ability to adapt. Enhancing the availability and quality of education, extension services and finance could be valuable in encouraging further farm adaptation. Link

 

Irrigated Water and its role in Circular agri-food systems in SSA (2022, Conference paper)

The developing world and Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, are facing numerous challenges. Food security and poor nutrition, environmental degradation, social and economic inequalities, and slow economic growth can be addressed individually but may be better addressed following integrated systems approaches. Irrigation is crucial to increasing food production, but schemes often fail because developers focus on infrastructural development without incorporating critical system elements. Irrigation increases production potential in areas where rainfall limits productivity, but it increases the cost and complexity of production. Infrastructures are not maintained, resulting in high water losses, low productivity, and ultimately, irrigators inability to pay water bills and abandoned schemes. This paper argues that irrigation schemes can play significant roles in transforming local economies. To do that, a new irrigation development paradigm is needed to increase productivity and, more importantly, to widen the benefits beyond those with access to irrigated fields. We propose that integrating dry-land agriculture with irrigated cropping systems will generate synergies beneficial to both production systems and create more livelihood opportunities than the isolated systems combined. To further extend these integrated systems' benefits, we propose developing the local economy through small and medium enterprises supporting them, providing inputs and processing outputs while recycling the by-products to offset input costs and reduce possible pollution. To achieve greater production efficiencies, we need to improve output/input ratios, reduce losses and wastage of all resources, reduce production costs, and increase the value of the produced outputs. Furthermore, these systems need to be socially, economically and environmentally sustainable and resilient. We propose that irrigation systems represent the central element around which circular food systems and associated economies can develop. Most irrigation systems acquire inputs over long distances, and export raw food products to urban areas where they are processed and packaged, for some to be transported back to consumers near their origin. The essence of circularity is to reduce the costs, financial and environmental, of transporting inputs to production areas and outputs to urban areas. Large industrial processors discard by-products as waste as they may not have any value or use near cities and transporting it to where it may have value as inputs in production, will be too costly. Processing and value addition near the origin reduce transportation costs of bulky raw products, and local small-scale processing will create jobs and provide rural entrepreneurial opportunities, which will generate local buying power and counter urbanization. In short, we want to reduce food miles and losses, recycle by-products, and generate economic opportunities near irrigation systems and reduce the local cost of nutrient-dense food. We draw on examples from our projects in Tanzania and Zimbabwe to illustrate the potential socio-economic benefits from circular food system centred on smallholder irrigation schemes. Link

 

The value of water: a perspective from the Global South. (2022, Conference paper)

Sustainable ecosystems are critical for food security and well-being in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Prioritization of the intensive production of water-hungry crops for export has detrimentally impacted ecosystems. Land uses should be less water-intensive to increase the volume and quality of water in rivers. Governments should allocate water based on the total value (economic, socioeconomic and environmental) that the water will generate from a use, including flow-on and long-term benefits. Most people in SSA face many challenges causing multi-dimensional poverty: insecure access to food, WASH services, housing, education and jobs. Hence, reducing water allocated for domestic food production and WASH services in favor of ecosystems might not always be wise in the short term. On this basis, we discuss the short and long-term benefits flowing from allocating water for four major uses: i) domestic food production and job creation to provide physical and economic access to sufficient nutritional food for a healthy and productive life; ii) WASH services, for a healthier, better educated and more productive population with economic access to food; iii) export commodity production, allocation to this purpose should be limited to commodities, which generates the highest number of jobs and export revenue for Africa per unit of water and allows more water to remain in rivers and lakes; and iv) sustainable ecosystems, the focus should be on ecosystems, which generates jobs and nutrition such as fisheries and tourism. We provide a conceptual framework of benefits to guide policymakers making trade-offs between different uses when allocating scarce water. Link

 

Youth Involvement in Small-scale Irrigation Schemes. (2022, Conference paper)

Youth employment is a global policy priority and critical for economic and social growth. However, there has been limited focus on youth on small-scale irrigation schemes in sub-Saharan Africa. This study contributes to this gap and explores young people’s involvement in on- and off-farm work and work away and the influences and constraints they experience. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from six schemes in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, using a household survey (n=402) and focus groups (n=5). Key findings from the quantitative analysis includes: higher proportions of young people unemployed; on-farm work the dominant work for all age groups; the 15-24 age group having the highest proportion of off-farm work; young people combining irrigation with other work; household size, land area and household revenue having significant influences on young people’s work; lower proportions of young people being households heads, and young household heads most likely to be male;. Young people faced similar challenges to many small-scale farmers, but their ability to contribute to scheme decision-making was limited and land access was not always equitable. Future policy initiatives for small-scale irrigation schemes should consider: how schemes are linked to job creation in their local economy; legitimate ways to foster young people’s involvement in scheme decision-making; and encouraging locally appropriate innovations for equitable access to irrigation plots. Further research could help understand the complex interplay of household and individual characteristics that influence work options, the role of irrigation as a component of young people’s work and barriers that limit off-farm opportunities. Link

 

Project empowering farming communities in Southern Africa. (2022, Web-page page)

An innovative project involving researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) that is helping farming communities in Africa thrive has been recognised for its success. The "Transforming Irrigation in Southern Africa" project, established in 2013, has won a European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) Excellence in Practice Gold Award. The project is a collaboration between ANU, The University of South Australia and a number of international partners. The team is now working with 15,000 farm businesses and 42 irrigation-farming communities across three countries. Link
 

Within-Season Variation in Light Use Efficiency Enhances Productivity Estimates for Cropland. (2022, Journal article)

Gross Primary Productivity (GPP) for cropland is often estimated using a fixed value for maximum light use efficiency (LUEmax) which is reduced to light use efficiency (LUE) by environmental stress scalars. This may not reflect variation in LUE within a crop season, and environmental stress scalars developed for ecosystem scale modelling may not apply linearly to croplands. We predicted LUE on several vegetation indices, crop type, and agroclimatic predictors using supervised random forest regression with training data from flux towers. Using a fixed LUEmax and environmental stress scalars produced an overestimation of GPP with a root mean square error (RMSE) of 6.26 gC/m2/day, while using predicted LUE from random forest regression produced RMSEs of 0.099 and 0.404 gC/m2/day for models with and without crop type as a predictor, respectively. Prediction uncertainty was greater for the model without crop type. These results show that LUE varies between crop type, is dynamic within a crop season, and LUE models that reflect this are able to produce much more accurate estimates of GPP over cropland than using fixed LUEmax with stress scalars. Therefore, we suggest a paradigm shift from setting the LUE variable in cropland productivity models based on environmental stress to focusing more on the variation of LUE within a crop season. Link
 

Why food insecurity persists in sub‑Saharan Africa: A review of existing evidence. (2022, Journal article)

This article is the third in a series of historical reviews on sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), exploring why agricultural production and irrigation schemes are underperforming, and how this contributes to high levels of food insecurity. The expression ‘food security’ emerged in 1974 following the Sahel and Darfur famines. Despite SSA being a net agricultural exporter, food insecurity has persisted and is increasing. This is largely a legacy of the export-oriented colonial agricultural production systems, which procured scarce fertile land, water and labour to meet the needs of industries and consumers in the Global North. Colonialism also undermined the social contract between traditional leaders and communities, which had been instrumental in managing food scarcity in earlier times. Post-independence, agricultural policies remained focused on exports and neglected critical research and investment: integrating food productions systems into the domestic economy; developing supply chains and associated market, storage and value-adding infrastructure; and introducing appropriate technologies. As a result, Africa is the only region in the world where increased export production caused a decline in per capita food production. African nations should be extracted from the debt accrued due to poor colonial investments, World Bank lending practices, and global currency and interest fluctuations, which have crippled their capacity to support agriculture and improve livelihoods and food security. Farming needs to be profitable, which includes farmers being connected to domestic supply chains and market signals, local value-adding, and post-harvest storage. This will create jobs and increase income earning capacity, which is the key to households’ food security. Link

 

2021

Irrigation helps women farmers in Mozambique weather climate extremes (2021, Web-page)

Story on TISA’s sister Farmer-led Smallholder Irrigation project in Mozambique. In January 2021, a devastating cyclone hit Mozambique and flooded Berta Inácio Ngove’s field, burying a promising crop of maize and beans in a watery tomb. “It was bad,” recalls Ngove, a 52-year-old widow and mother of four children. “We did not harvest anything.” But cyclones aren’t the only extreme weather events that smallholder farmers like Ngove must endure. Droughts and erratic rainfall have also elevated crop losses and food scarcity in a country increasingly vulnerable to the vagaries of the climate crisis. In response, the Mozambique government is rolling out the 25-year National Irrigation Program (NIP), which plans to irrigate 300,000 hectares annually to help smallholder farmers weather the climate crisis and boost food production. International development organizations and academic institutions are supporting the effort with training, farmer education and loans. Link
 

Climate-smart technology has helped the members of an irrigation scheme to improve their yields, lessen their water usage and make informed decisions about which crops to plant. (2021, Web-page)

It is mid-morning in late October and Linda Ncube, 58, puts on a large cotton hat to protect herself from the searing sun. As she prepares her wheat harvest for packing on a section of a vast field with the help of colleagues, her face reveals a sense of satisfaction. She is one of 61 small-scale farmers who are members of the Tshongokwe irrigation scheme, which covers 24 hectares of land in the Lupane district in Matabeleland North, one of the driest regions in Zimbabwe. It was started with a handful of communal farmers by the colonial government in 1966. The farmers have always grown a variety of crops, including vegetables like beans, butternut, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes, as well as maize and wheat. But they stopped planting wheat in 2018 because persistent poor rains and siltation left the Tshongokwe Dam – the main water source for irrigating their crops – dry. When abundant rains fell during the last season, the farmers were able to plant wheat again. Link
 

Makhouvula irrigation scheme visit, Zimbabwe (2021, Video) Link
 

Farming reboot lays seeds for prosperity in poor regions (2021, Web-page)

Agriculture experts from The Australian National University (ANU) have teamed up with government bodies and NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa to improve irrigation schemes and boost crop production. The researchers' work is improving food security, reducing water waste and lifting people out of poverty. "This simple reboot of irrigation schemes made up of small farms could help stamp out poverty in farming communities around the world," Professor Jamie Pittock, from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society, said. Link
 

Changing the development paradigm in African agricultural water management to resolve water and food challenges (2021, Journal article)

Meeting growing demand for water and food in Africa, and other parts of the Global South, presents a significant and critical challenge over the next 50 years. This paper draws on an ongoing project in Africa to outline the research-for-development work that is urgently required to facilitate a paradigm shift in agricultural water management. Such work should lead to increased productivity and profitability of agricultural water use to allow agriculture to release some water to meet the growing needs of other sectors, while still meeting food security needs and contributing to a prosperous rural population. Link
 

Beyond fertilizer for closing yield gaps in sub-Saharan Africa (2021, Journal article)

Adopting new models for sustainable and profitable agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa requires a comprehensive evaluation of fertilizer use in terms of agronomic performance, economic implications, the integration of crops and livestock, and policy recommendations. Link
 

Tracing the history of farming across Africa gives clues to low production outputs (2021, The Conversation)

Agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa is under-performing, leaving 30% of people in the region food insecure. Food insecurity means that not all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs.

Many reasons have been put forward for this state of affairs. These have ranged from the continent’s biophysical environment to the ineptitude of its farmers.

Several aspects of Africa’s environment present challenges for its farmers. Rainfall patterns are extremely varied and unpredictable. African soils are geologically very old, and most are infertile and respond poorly to mineral fertilizer. Fertile soils are mainly found in the East African Rift Valley, and on the floodplains and deltas where silt is deposited, and require careful agricultural water management. Link
 

Water markets in Africa: an analysis of Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe (2021, Book chapter)

Case studies raise the question of whether investments in more productive water use in irrigation genuinely free up water for use in other sectors, as opposed to reducing return flows to rivers and enabling expansion of agricultural production (Grafton et al., 2018). In the cases cited above there have been countervailing outcomes, such as previously disused irrigation plots being brought back into production on some schemes. Each water efficiency investment does need to be thoroughly assessed to identify and manage double-counting of water and potentially perverse outcomes. However, in many of the TISA irrigation schemes in the wet-dry tropics, before intervention there was no obvious beneficiary from return flows, as it went to rivers with no surface flows in the dry season in Zimbabwe, nor to groundwater users.

Trading within irrigation schemes may also be beneficial. In the Magozi rice scheme in Tanzania, conflicts over water use have been at a high level, especially between upstream and downstream users, with some downstream users unable to grow a crop. With the reduction in conflicts experienced during the TISA project, there might be sufficient willingness to engage in collective action during future water shortages, so collective agreements could be made at the Irrigation Association level about which farmers will not sow crops in a given season and how they will be compensated. Link
 

ACIAR Project video for Tanzania (2021, Video) Link
 

High-Dimensional Satellite Image Compositing and Statistics for Enhanced Irrigated Crop Mapping. (2021, Journal article)

Accurate irrigated area maps remain difficult to generate, as smallholder irrigation schemes often escape detection. Efforts to map smallholder irrigation have often relied on complex classification models fitted to temporal image stacks. The use of high-dimensional geometric median composites (geomedians) and high-dimensional statistics of time-series may simplify classification models and enhance accuracy. High-dimensional statistics for temporal variation, such as the spectral median absolute deviation, indicate spectral variability within a period contributing to a geomedian. The Ord River Irrigation Area was used to validate Digital Earth Australia’s annual geomedian and temporal variation products. Geomedian composites and the spectral median absolute deviation were then calculated on Sentinel-2 images for three smallholder irrigation schemes in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, none of which were classified as areas equipped for irrigation in AQUASTAT’s Global Map of Irrigated Areas. Supervised random forest classification was applied to all sites. For the three Matabeleland sites, the average Kappa coefficient was 0.87 and overall accuracy was 95.9% on validation data. This compared with 0.12 and 77.2%, respectively, for the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Water Productivity through Open access of Remotely sensed derived data (WaPOR) land use classification map. The spectral median absolute deviation was ranked among the most important variables across all models based on mean decrease in accuracy. Change detection capacity also means the spectral median absolute deviation has some advantages for cropland mapping over indices such as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. The method demonstrated shows potential to be deployed across countries and regions where smallholder irrigation schemes account for large proportions of irrigated area.  Link
 

Simple interventions embedded in a wider learning environment lead to big gains and systemic changes (2021, Web-page)

Impressive project findings from the use of the two synergistic interventions – Smart Water Management tools and Agricultural Innovation Platforms – published in the special Issue of the International Journal of Water Resources Development reveal big gains accrued from using simple technologies embedded in a wider learning environment. Some of the immediate outcomes reported from project sites in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe pointed to increased crop yields ranging from 28-313 %, income increase of 43-94% in farmer households, 43–60% increase in off-farm income due to less time spent irrigating and 40–85% of farmers reducing their irrigation frequency. Link
 

  • Young farmers on irrigation schemes in southern Africa: demographics and influences on farming (Report)

    Youth employment is a global policy priority and critical for economic and social growth and food security. Many youth in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) experience significant income vulnerability, and the challenge is to increase the productivity of those working as well as creating more jobs. Whilst research on young people in agriculture has accelerated in the past two decades, there has been limited focus on youth engagement in small-scale irrigation schemes. To contribute to filling this gap, this report draws on research undertaken through an agricultural research-for-development project—established in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe—to improve scheme profitability and explore inequity, including for youth. Future policy initiatives for small-scale irrigation schemes should consider: how schemes are linked to job creation in their local economy; legitimate ways to foster young people’s involvement in scheme decision-making; and encouraging locally appropriate innovations for equitable access to irrigation plots. Link

  • Perceptions of Tanzanian smallholder irrigators on impact pathways between water equity and socioeconomic inequalities. (2021. Journal article) 

    Irrigation is promoted as a critical strategy for rural welfare, yet fundamental questions prevail on the linkages between water, equity and inequality. Applying mixed-methods, this study investigates the impact pathways whereby water inequities are associated with socioeconomic inequalities within two Tanzanian smallholder irrigation schemes. According to irrigators’ perceptions, greater water equity would benefit the poor through improved working conditions, productivity, reliability and reduced risk. Quantitative analyses corroborate that water-dissatisfied irrigators suffered from lower yields and higher unproductive land, investment losses and yield gaps. Education, empowerment and strong governance are proposed as possible avenues towards greater water equity and inclusive growth. Link

  • Far-reaching impact of technology and innovation: Saving time, boosting income and reducing household conflict in Zimbabwe and beyond. (2021. Blog)

    Simple agricultural innovations, such as soil probes to detect water and salinity levels at different depths, have not only helped smallholder farmers’ conserve scarce resources; they have reduced conflict within communities and fostered harmony in families. Interventions in Zimbabwe have demonstrated that returns on investment in R&D go far beyond increased yields and productivity. Link

  • Simple interventions embedded in a wider learning environment lead to big gains and systemic changes (2021. B)

    Impressive project findings from the use of the two synergistic interventions – Smart Water Management tools and Agricultural Innovation Platforms – published in the special Issue of the International Journal of Water Resources Development reveal big gains accrued from using simple technologies embedded in a wider learning environment. Some of the immediate outcomes reported from project sites in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe pointed to increased crop yields ranging from 28-313 %, income increase of 43-94% in farmer households, 43–60% increase in off-farm income due to less time spent irrigating and 40–85% of farmers reducing their irrigation frequency. Link

  • High-Dimensional Satellite Image Compositing and Statistics for Enhanced Irrigated Crop Mapping (2021, Journal article)

    Accurate irrigated area maps remain difficult to generate, as smallholder irrigation schemes often escape detection. Efforts to map smallholder irrigation have often relied on complex classification models fitted to temporal image stacks. The use of high-dimensional geometric median composites (geomedians) and high-dimensional statistics of time-series may simplify classification models and enhance accuracy. High-dimensional statistics for temporal variation, such as the spectral median absolute deviation, indicate spectral variability within a period contributing to a geomedian. The Ord River Irrigation Area was used to validate Digital Earth Australia’s annual geomedian and temporal variation products. Geomedian composites and the spectral median absolute deviation were then calculated on Sentinel-2 images for three smallholder irrigation schemes in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, none of which were classified as areas equipped for irrigation in AQUASTAT’s Global Map of Irrigated Areas. Supervised random forest classification was applied to all sites. For the three Matabeleland sites, the average Kappa coefficient was 0.87 and overall accuracy was 95.9% on validation data. This compared with 0.12 and 77.2%, respectively, for the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Water Productivity through Open access of Remotely sensed derived data (WaPOR) land use classification map. The spectral median absolute deviation was ranked among the most important variables across all models based on mean decrease in accuracy. Change detection capacity also means the spectral median absolute deviation has some advantages for cropland mapping over indices such as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. The method demonstrated shows potential to be deployed across countries and regions where smallholder irrigation schemes account for large proportions of irrigated area. Link

  • ACIAR Project video for Tanzania (2021)

    #Climatechange is accelerating water scarcity with more intense droughts and increased water stress, particularly for rural communities. Prof Jamie Pittock is leading an ACIAR supported project to manage water resources better in Africa. Discover how the project is changing farmer livelihoods, equity and community management of #Kiwere and #Magozi irrigation schemes in Tanzania. Link

  • Tracing the history of farming across Africa gives clues to low production outputs (2021, News)

    Agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa is under-performing, leaving 30% of people in the region food insecure. Food insecurity means that not all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs. Many reasons have been put forward for this state of affairs. These have ranged from the continent’s biophysical environment to the ineptitude of its farmers.  Link

  • Water Markets. A Global Assessment. (2021, Book chapter)

    Exploring water scarcity issues in light of the growing crisis in global water management, this book examines the applicability of water markets. It provides an overview and understanding of the presence of water markets across the globe, analysing the ways in which different countries and regions are grappling with water scarcity. This timely book offers an insight into the benefits of water markets, and their identified market failures. A water market framework is applied to key case studies, highlighting that the majority of regions have not had sufficient water reforms to allow for the introduction of water markets without negative social consequences. The book addresses existing hydrological and institutional capacity across countries and areas where water reform is needed, and lessons are provided for future water markets, taking into account these limitations. The case studies of different countries tackling water scarcity issues and reform will make this an essential read for scholars of environmental studies, water economics, sustainability management and environmental policies. It will also be an invigorating book for water policy-makers interested in lessons for change, and in how to better implement reforms for water markets to help address both water scarcity and improve productivity.  See chapter 3. Water markets in Africa: an analysis of Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe Link

  • 2020

  • International Journal of Water Resources Development, Volume 36, Issue sup1 (2020)

    Transforming Small-Scale Irrigation in Southern Africa with ten project related papers that explore the challenges of increasing irrigation productivity in a world with growing demand for food based on scarce water supplies. Link

    • Transforming failing smallholder irrigation schemes in Africa: a theory of change. Drawing on the results of the Transforming Irrigation in Southern Africa project, we assess positive transitions in smallholder irrigation schemes. The project’s theory of change is evaluated. Soil monitoring tools and agricultural innovation platforms were introduced in five irrigation schemes in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The synergies between these interventions increased both crop yields and profitability. This empowered farmers, improved equity, and accelerated social learning and innovation.  The resulting, iterative cycles of change improved governance, sustainability and socio-economic outcomes. The challenges of scaling these interventions up and out are outlined.
    • Why agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa remains low compared to the rest of the world – a historical perspective Agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa has, in recent times, remained lower than the rest of the world. Many attribute this to factors inherent to Africa and its people, such as climate, soil quality, slavery and disease. This article traces the role of agriculture through history and argues that these are not the main reasons. Before the arrival of European traders, complex agricultural systems existed, which supported food security, manufacturing and trade. External interference manipulated these systems in pursuit of export crops. Independence has not fundamentally changed this; resource and wealth extraction continue to inhibit economic development for Africans in Africa.
    • Exploring the factors causing the poor performance of most irrigation schemes in post-independence sub-Saharan Africa This article explores the factors causing the current poor performance of most government irrigation schemes in sub-Saharan Africa. The literature review finds that the poor performance is not primarily caused by socioeconomic and biophysical conditions inherent to sub-Saharan Africa. African farmers have adapted to diverse biophysical conditions and expanded or contracted their area under agricultural water management in response to market signals. Rather, this poor performance is predominantly linked to the production systems introduced during colonialism and developments since independence, such as agricultural policies restraining rural economic development, unsuitable irrigation technologies and agricultural practices, and international lending practices and trade arrangements.
    • The dynamics between irrigation frequency and soil nutrient management: transitioning smallholder irrigation towards more profitable and sustainable systems in Zimbabwe Successful irrigated agriculture is underpinned by answering two critical questions: when and how much to irrigate. This article quantifies the role of the Chameleon and the Wetting Front Detector, monitoring tools facilitating decision-making and learning about soil-water-nutrient dynamics. Farmers retained nutrients in the root zone by reducing irrigation frequency, number of siphons, and event duration. Water productivity increased by more than 100% for farmers both with and without monitoring tools. Transitioning smallholder irrigation systems into profitable and sustainable schemes requires investment in technology, farmers and institutions. Importantly, technologies need embedding in a learning environment that fosters critical feedback mechanisms, such as market constraints.
    • Do agricultural innovation platforms and soil moisture and nutrient monitoring tools improve the production and livelihood of smallholder irrigators in Mozambique? Over four years, a research-for-development project was implemented at the 25 de Setembro irrigation scheme in Mozambique. The project introduced agricultural innovation platforms to overcome barriers to production such as input and output supply chains and poorly maintained irrigation canals. Soil moisture and nutrient monitoring tools were provided so that farmers could improve their irrigation and fertilizer management. The farmers increased their crop production through the use of the tools and better irrigation infrastructure, and increased their income and overall well-being through better links to markets and new information sources facilitated by the agricultural innovation platforms.
    • The role of soil water monitoring tools and agricultural innovation platforms in improving food security and income of farmers in smallholder irrigation schemes in Tanzania. Smallholder irrigation is an important pathway towards better livelihoods and food security in sub-Saharan Africa. This article assesses the contribution of farmer-friendly soil and water monitoring tools, and agricultural innovation platforms, towards household income and food security in two small-scale irrigation schemes in Tanzania. Quantitative and qualitative data from farmer’s field books, household surveys and focus groups were used to assess the impacts of the two interventions. The two interventions together contributed to enhancing smallholders’ food security and household income in the two schemes, as did the agricultural innovation platform on its own.
    • Identifying leverage points to transition dysfunctional irrigation schemes towards complex adaptive systems. This article explores the value of Ostrom’s socio-ecological systems framework and Meadows’s leverage point hierarchy, as structured diagnostics, to define systemic problems and avoid approaches based on linear thinking. These frameworks were applied as an ex post analysis of an irrigation scheme in Zimbabwe, drawing on the scheme’s baseline condition and the intervention outcomes. Strong leverage points, particularly those driving feedback mechanisms and institutional design, interacted with other intervention points, initiating systemic change. This analysis suggests that dysfunctional schemes can be transitioned towards complex adaptive systems by using agricultural innovation platforms to identify systemic challenges and intervention points.
    • The importance of learning processes in transitioning small-scale irrigation schemes. Many small-scale irrigation schemes are dysfunctional, and learning, innovation and evaluation are required to facilitate sustainable transitions. Using quantitative and qualitative data from five irrigation schemes in sub-Saharan Africa, we analyze how learning and change arose in response to: soil-monitoring tools, which triggered a deep learning cycle; and agricultural innovation platforms, which helped develop a social learning system. Knowledge generation and innovation were driven by the incentives of more profitable farming. Learning and change spread to farmers without the tools, and learning at different levels resulted in extension and governance stakeholders facilitating profound institutional change.
    • Growth and inequality at the micro scale: an empirical analysis of farm incomes within smallholder irrigation systems in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Mozambique The mechanisms linking growth and inequality are critical for poverty reduction, yet they remain poorly understood at the micro level, as current knowledge is dominated by country-wide studies. This article evaluates farm income growth and changes in inequality among five smallholder irrigation communities in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Over the period of study, the poorest sections of the population became better-off. Over an income growth spell, at low levels of growth, relative inequality increases, but it starts to drop as growth rises beyond a certain rate. Thus, careful design is required to ensure that pro-growth strategies also become inequality-reducing.
    • Irrigators’ willingness to pay for the adoption of soil moisture monitoring tools in South-Eastern Africa Contingent valuation is used to elicit irrigators’ willingness to pay for soil moisture tools in irrigation schemes in Africa, with various econometric methods employed to mitigate potential bias. Key results include that there is a neighbourhood effect influencing adoption, and that being located downstream and spending more on irrigation water positively and statistically significantly influenced willingness to pay for tools. The result suggests that although focusing on economic incentives and promoting farmer learning by those using the tools may promote greater adoption, there is likely to still be a need for co-investment by other bodies.
  • Equal Opportunity Sensitive Aggregate Wellbeing Measures: Food Security and Basic Household Income on Sub Saharan Africa Agricultural Irrigation Scheme Developments (2020, Brief)

    Equality of Opportunity and gender equality, key components of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and inclusive growth initiatives, require wellbeing measures that reflect the extent to which such targets are being achieved. From a measurement perspective, the Equal Opportunity literature distinguishes between inequalities arising from individual choice and inequalities engendered by circumstances beyond individual control and only the latter should enter the calculus. However, common metrics of socio-economic inequality make no such distinction, which confounds different inequality sources and obfuscates potential intervention pathways. Using recent intertemporal data from family farms on four Zimbabwean and Tanzanian irrigation schemes, this study introduces and exemplifies new methods for measuring multidimensional Equality of Opportunity (gender and location), within an overall wellbeing framework. Results indicate a deterioration in equality of opportunity in access to land, with an improvement in equality of opportunity in revenue generation, with the former outweighing the latter in a joint analysis. Lin

  • Institutional innovation and smart water management technologies in small-scale irrigation schemes in southern Africa. (2020, Journal article)

    This paper reports on the introduction of SWM technology, soil moisture and nutrient monitoring tools, alongside Agricultural Innovation Platforms (AIP) in three small-scale irrigation schemes in southern Africa. Quantitative and qualitative data are presented on the changes and benefits that have resulted, including increased yield and profitability. The findings emphasize that information prior and subsequent to adoption is needed, and the importance of understanding and enhancing the incentive framework for behavioural change, including both economic and physical returns. The findings illustrate SWM technology is strengthened when introduced with credible multi-stakeholder processes, such as an AIP, that facilitate institutional innovation. Link
     

  • Transforming small-scale irrigation in southern Africa (Chapter 3) in Success stories in agricultural water management research for development. (2020. Book chapter)

    As global demand for natural resources increases and the challenges of a changing climate intensify, so too does the critical importance of research to inform sustainable agricultural water management. Water scarcity—surface water and groundwater—and water quality degradation affect most developing countries. As much as 60% of the global population is predicted to face water scarcity in some form by 2025. Agricultural water management has been an integral focus of ACIAR since 1982 and so far, ACIAR has invested in a great deal of research relating to agricultural water management. This ACIAR Technical Report presents six short papers in the field of agricultural water management. The papers outline the findings from ACIAR-supported research during the past decade, covering a range of topics, from on-farm agronomy for improved water use efficiency to participatory management of groundwater resources in southern Africa and south Asia. Link
     

  • 2019

  • Dr Ana Manero Ruiz - 3 minute presentation (2019)

    In August 2019, at the University of Western Australia, Dr Ana Manero Ruiz gave a three-minute presentation on her equity and water governance research, which is based on the ACIAR funded Africa irrigation project. A video of the presentation can be viewed here.

    Exploring the Head versus Tail‐End Dichotomy on Yield and Farm Incomes in Smallholder Irrigation Schemes in Tanzania (2019)

    In most low‐technology, smallholder irrigation schemes, no accurate measures of physical water supply are available. This study proposes a multidimensional approach where various water‐related factors are evaluated in conjunction with socioeconomic and farm variables to understand their effects on crop yields and incomes. Based on two smallholder irrigation schemes in southern Tanzania, this study found that various water factors are critical for crop yields, but less so for incomes from irrigated crops. The results of this study suggest that water supply within smallholder schemes is better understood through its multiple aspects, rather than limited to the unidimensional head versus tail‐end dichotomy. Link

  • The dynamics of the relationship between household decision-making and farm household income in small-scale irrigation schemes in southern Africa (2019)

    Irrigation has been promoted as a strategy to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods in southern Africa. Households’ livelihood strategies within small-scale irrigation schemes have become increasingly complex and diversified. Strategies consist of farm income from rain-fed and irrigated cropping as well as livestock and an increasing dependence on off-farm income. The success of these strategies depends on the household’s ability to make decisions about how to utilize its’ financial, labour, land and water resources. This study explores the dynamics of decision-making in households’ on-farm household income within six small-scale irrigation schemes, across three southern African countries. We found strong support for the notion that decision-making dynamics strongly influence total household income. Households make trade-offs between irrigation, dryland, livestock and off-farm work when they allocate their labour resources to maximize household income; as opposed to maximizing the income from any individual component of their livelihood strategy, such as irrigation. Combined with the impact of the small plot size of irrigated land, this is likely to result in sub-optimal benefits from expensive investments in irrigation infrastructure. Policy-makers must consider this when developing and implementing new policies. Link
     

    Understanding agricultural water management in a historical context using a socioeconomic and biophysical framework (2019)

    While the earliest irrigation societies were relatively simple in their technical and social structures, they represent complex socioecological systems where human activities interact with the biophysical environment. Actions taken within any part of the system affect other parts, often with detrimental environmental impact. In this paper, we propose an integrated framework that explains how the socioeconomic and biophysical factors influence the development of agricultural water management (AWM). We argue that the failure of AWM developments across time and space, and within any stage of complexity, is a consequence of a lack of understanding of the interconnectedness within these complex systems and a lack of political will to acknowledge and investigate the failure, which allows both positive and negative effects to influence decision-making. Link
     

    Collaborative solutions for complex problems in Southern Africa (2019)

    January 30, Andre van Rooyen presented TISA research in “Collaborative solutions for complex problems in Southern Africa” at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at ANU. The audience included representatives from ACIAR, DFAT and academics.  https://fennerschool.anu.edu.au/news-events/news/collaborative-solutions-complex-problems-southern-africa

  • 2018

  • Smart Water Management Case Study Report (2018)

    The Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-water), and the International Water Resource Association jointly published the joint Smart Water Management (SWM) Case Study Report.  This report highlights case studies and SWM projects from around the world.  The report provides an in depth look at how these were implemented, the enabling factors and potential barriers faced, and how SWM can assist with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Based on cross case analysis, the report looks at the potential for replication and scalability, and provides policy recommendations to assist decision-makers with supporting future SWM implementation. Chapter 2 on Smart Water Management Case Studies includes in section 2.8 Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe: SWM for transforming smallholder irrigation into profitable and self-sustaining systems (page 330) a comprehensive case study on this research work. Link
     

    A guide to ‘Transforming smallholder irrigation schemes in Africa’ (2018)

    This publication is based on this research is meant as a guide to help farmers become more profitable and sustainable. Across Africa, smallholder irrigation schemes have performed poorly, leading to calls for their ‘revitalisation’, ‘reoperation’ or ‘rehabilitation’. The authors present knowledge generated through four years of research intervention at six irrigation schemes in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, and their understanding of what has worked to turn five of into successful enterprises. A summary of the best advice on good practices needed for more sustainable irrigation is presented. Each intervention can be considered alone, although a number of different complementary interventions are usually required to achieve better socioeconomic and environmental outcomes. Link

  • 2017

    International Journal of Water Resources Development (IJWRD) Special Volume 33, 2017 – The productivity and profitability of small-scale communal irrigation systems in South-eastern Africa

    The IJWRD special edition includes 11 project related papers that explore the challenges of increasing irrigation productivity in a world with growing demand for food based on scarce water supplies.

  • 2016

  • Project baseline report

    Overview report based on the country (Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania) team baseline reports, site visits, observations, and interviews as well as available literature. Topics covered include: the history, water and scheme management, physical including scheme access, social including community and village structures, production including inputs, markets, extension, and challenges. Link

  • ICRISAT story on the scaling up of research results from our project and ZIMCLIFS, both funded by ACIAR. (2016)

  • The influence of the ACIAR supported research is obvious and there is an emphasis on helping the Zimbabwean Government agencies develop a Green Climate Fund project.

  • Article on the $80 million Green Climate Fund project to restore 50 irrigation schemes in Zimbabwe (2016)

  • Call for sustainable intensification of farming systems in Zimbabwe

  • Project partner ICRISAT newsletter article commenting on the Harare workshop where our African project made major contributions: Integrated approach for irrigation development in Zimbabwe. Download the newsletter
  • Project Number: FSC-2013-006 Project Baseline Report. "Increasing irrigation water productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through on-farm monitoring, adaptive management and agricultural innovation& platforms". Download the Baseline Report (pdf, 2.8 MB)
     
  • The 4th International Commission of Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) African Regional Conference was held in Aswan in Egypt from 26 to 28 April 2016:

    ICID is the leading global organisations focusing on engineering aspects of water and drainage issues. ICID is increasingly become aware of the important of non-engineering aspects of irrigation development and management which was clearly evident at this meeting. Dr Henning Bjornlund attended the conference and presented two papers produced on the basis of the ACIAR project. These two papers made a significant contribution to the conference by illustrating the important and potential of combining technological and non-technological approaches to improving the productivity and profitability of irrigation schemes both in the development and implementation phases. The two papers were presented under the food security theme. The two papers were:
  • Catchment and Learning Symposium project presentations (2016)

    In Tanzania, project leader Dr Makarius Mdemu and ground water advisor Prof Japhet Kashaigili presented project findings at a Catchment and Learning Symposium, held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 5-6 May 2016. The symposium was organised by WWF Tanzania in collaboration with partners. The aim was to share and reflect on the opportunities and challenges associated with catchment governance – with an emphasis on effective or emerging approaches from both within and outside of Tanzania.
    Effective management of water resources is vital to sustainable development. However, implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) policy and legislation continues to struggle throughout Tanzania and Africa at large. WWF-Tanzania has considerable experience with supporting the development of the Ruaha River catchment management through their Sustainable Water Access, Use and Management (SWAUM) programme. SWAUM aims to address the complexity inherent in catchment management through multi-stakeholder social learning and places ‘integration’ at the heart of water resources use and management.

    UniSA Report

    Based on the three country baseline surveys but focuses on comparing the results for the six schemes. Link
     

    Tanzania baseline report

    The baseline report is based on 100 farmer household surveys selected from Kiwere and Magozi irrigations in Iringa Rural District. Link
     

    Mozambique baseline report

    The baseline report is based on nine household interviews from the Khanimambo irrigation scheme in Magude District, and twenty-five household interviews at 25 de Setembro irrigation scheme in Boane District. Link

     

    2014

    Zimbabwe baseline report

    The baseline report is based on 68 household interviews at Mkoba irrigation scheme in Vungu District, and 100 household interviews at Silalatshani irrigation scheme in Insiza district. Link

Updated:  13 January 2023/Responsible Officer:  Director, Fenner School/Page Contact:  Webmaster, Fenner School