Is farmer-led irrigation driving a new ‘green revolution?’

April 2019
Zimbabweland (Ian Scoones)

One of the most striking things about some of the study sites in the A1 (smallholder) land reform schemes of Zimbabwe is the amount of small-scale irrigation going on. This is not on schemes or in formalised group gardens, but irrigation by individual farmers, many using small pump sets and pipes. This has been investigated in Masvingo, in Mvurwi in high-potential Mashonaland East, and in Chikobedzi in Chiredzi district in the dry lowveld. It seems to be a widespread phenomenon but is emerging largely unnoticed and unsupported. If the patterns seen in these studies sites are representative, this implies a very large and expanding irrigated area driven by individual initiative, largely unrecognised by agricultural and irrigation policy. This is perhaps the beginnings of a new ‘green revolution’ led by farmers. Contains an article ‘Irrigating Africa: can small-scale farmers lead the way?’. Argues that as Zimbabwe contemplates new land and agriculture policies, farmer-led irrigation approaches must be central.