Engaging and learning with water infrastructure: Rufaro Irrigation Scheme, Zimbabwe

Tavengwa Chitata
The University of Sheffield, Department of Geography, Sheffield, United Kingdom; tchitata1@sheffield.ac.uk

Jeltsje Sanne Kemerink-Seyoum
University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Delft, The Netherlands; and IHE-Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands; j.kemerink@un-ihe.org

Frances Cleaver
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK; f.cleaver@lancaster.ac.uk

ABSTRACT: In this paper, we focus on changes made in the form and materiality of water infrastructure in a smallholder irrigation scheme in Zimbabwe. We use this focus on sociotechnical tinkering as a practical entry point to exploring how these changes matter in shaping knowledges and relationships in irrigated agriculture. Drawing on data collected through ethnographic methods, we show how history and politics matter in shaping the possibilities of rearranging infrastructure. Equally important are the knowledge-laden, embodied and discursive practices of the farmers, operators and engineers who engage with infrastructure. We argue that through the knowledges, creativity and agency of people interacting with irrigation infrastructure, water as well as power are (re)defined and (re)distributed in subtle and often unexpected, yet significant, ways.

KEYWORDS: Groundwater, irrigation infrastructure, smallholder farming, knowledge, Zimbabwe