In 1996, the parastatal authority ARDA handed over the Tsovani irrigation scheme to ‘community’ management. This paper examines how this has worked and for whom. Following an overview of irrigation management policy shifts over time in Zimbabwe, the paper turns to an examination of the scheme.
The paper identifies three different groups of irrigators. Only the relatively well off, with access to alternative cash incomes and good social and political networks are able to become commercial irrigators, as the infrastructure – and particularly pump fuel – costs are prohibitively high and rising. The others are able to either do small amounts of irrigation or use their plots for dryland agriculture.
In 2000 a group of war veterans ‘invaded’ the scheme, claiming plots on underutilised areas. These however have not been used for irrigation since, as the land claimants had insufficient resources to pay for the water.
The paper concludes with a discussion of appropriate irrigation policies, and the dilemmas faced in turning a dryland farming area to productive, irrigated agriculture.