default Popular

Smallholder irrigators, water rights and investments in agriculture: Three cases from rural Mozambique

Gert Jan Veldwisch
Irrigation and Water Engineering Group of Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands; gertjan.veldwisch@wur.nl
Wouter Beekman
Resilience BV, Wageningen, the Netherlands; wouter@resiliencebv.com
Alex Bolding
Irrigation and Water Engineering Group of Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands; alex.bolding@wur.nl

ABSTRACT: In the context of the prevalent neo-liberal discourse on rural development through improved markets, involvement of companies and a strong reliance on foreign investors this article examines the vulnerable position of smallholder irrigators and their water rights. Through the parallel analysis of three contrasting cases of smallholder irrigation in Mozambique and a comparison with formal Mozambican law, it is shown that a big gap exists between formal water rights and water rights in practice. For each case, it is shown how land and water rights are connected and how a successful defence of land rights provides a good basis for a defence of smallholder water rights. Furthermore, as productivity and efficiency arguments are prominent and influential, those smallholders who are able to turn their use into the production of economic value manage best to materialise their claims on both land and water. The paper concludes with recommendations to strengthen the position of smallholders in response to increasing threats of land and water grabbing.

KEYWORDS: Irrigation, smallholder production, water rights, land and water grabbing, Mozambique