The use of sustainable irrigation for poverty alleviation in Tanzania: the case of smallholder irrigation schemes in Igurusi Mbarali District

The use of sustainable irrigation for poverty alleviation in Tanzania: the case of smallholder irrigation schemes in Igurusi Mbarali District

Well managed irrigation leads to sustainable increases in farmers productivity and income in Tanzania

Irrigation plays an important role in curbing food scarcity in Tanzania by improving agricultural productivity in areas where surface soils are naturally dry. However, irrigation places large demands on water resources which have major implications for other users. Sustainable irrigation, therefore, refers to sound operation and maintenance of irrigation systems that does not degrade ecosystems or create conflicts with downstream uses. This study examines the sustainability of smallholder irrigated agriculture as a means of improving social and economic benefits of farmers in the Mbarali district, Tanzania.

The paper begins by reviewing the achievements of improved irrigation schemes towards poverty alleviation and the government policies that affect irrigation development and management. Next, the authors describe the methodology that is used for their research. The Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) approach is used to assess data collected through group discussion, participatory observation and questionnaire monitoring.

Findngs include:

  • households with access to irrigated water are able to prepare farms for early planting – this contributes to higher production
  • profit margins and returns to labour are relatively high for irrigated agriculture compared to rain-fed cultivation
  • improved irrigation schemes with external interventions have problems of ownership, where users are unwilling to contribute to the maintenance

The authors conclude that if irrigation is well managed, it will lead to sustainable increases in the small farmers’ productivity and income, thus alleviating rural poverty and enhancing environmental management objectives. The study makes recommendations to ensure that irrigated agriculture is effective in improving social and economic benefits. These include:

  • a clear definition of roles and assignment of specific responsibilities between the relevant ministries
  • increased participation, and therefore training, of women in management of irrigation schemes since they are the primary users and beneficiaries
  • including villagers in the planning and decision making of irrigation projects to enhance the sense of ownership and vested interest in the programmes