Pathways for irrigation development: policies and irrigation performance in Zimbabwe


Amid global concerns over rising food and fuel prices, changing diets and climate change, irrigated agriculture plays an important role in increasing food production in an uncertain and resource-constrained world. For many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly arid and semi-arid regions, irrigated agriculture is also a key part of strategies to boost economic growth and tackle rural poverty. However, scepticism remains in some quarters, given the disappointing economic returns of past irrigation investments, concerns over land and water grabs and a lack of sufficient evidence regarding what works, why and where, and who benefits.

This report presents the results of a study that looks at the policies and politics that have shaped irrigation practice and performance in Zimbabwe over the past 40–50 years. The working paper aims to understand the drivers of, and obstacles to, change with respect to improving sector performance and to identifying opportunities for innovation. The report also considers who has benefited and lost from public investments, and how these investments could better contribute to poverty reduction, economic growth and climate resilience.

It argues that more attention must be paid to the history and politics of irrigation development if we are to understand the way policies and practices have evolved over time, and what the outcomes have been. Our findings are aimed at policy-makers with a role in irrigation development in developing countries, and researchers focusing on irrigation performance and innovation.



Image: Zimbabwe borehole developed for domestic water and irrigation, by Pascal Manyakaidze/CDKNetwork

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