Organisational modalities of farmer-led irrigation development in Tsangano District, Mozambique

Francis Nkoka
World Bank, Lilongwe, Malawi; fnkoka@gmail.com

Gert Jan Veldwisch
Water Resources Management Group of Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands; gertjan.veldwisch@wur.nl

Alex Bolding
Water Resources Management Group of Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands; alex.bolding@wur.nl

ABSTRACT: This paper examines the organisational modalities of farmer-led irrigation systems in Tsangano, Mozambique, which has expanded over large areas with minimal external support. By looking at their historic development trajectories and the integrated nature of land and water resources, technological objects, and people three organisational modalities of irrigation system O&M are distinguished for furrow systems in Tsangano: communal systems, former Portuguese systems, and family systems. Each organisational modality is based on a particular development/investment history through which hydraulic property relations have been established and sustained.The findings cast serious doubts on the central tenets of neo-institutional policy prescriptions. This is particularly relevant as there is a renewed interest in large-scale irrigation development in Africa through public investment, after very limited investments between 1985 and 2005. Public irrigation investment in Africa has been widely perceived to have performed poorly. Farmer-led irrigation development, as studied in this paper, could be the basis for a cost-effective alternative to scale investments that can result in sustainable and pro-poor smallholder irrigation.The findings in this paper show how investments in infrastructure can create, recreate or extinguish hydraulic property and ownership relations, which can lead to collapse. Interveners should carefully investigate prior investment patterns and context-specific cultural logics that inform the sustainability of farmer-led irrigation development.

KEYWORDS: Irrigation, FMIS, farmer-led development, hydraulic property, institutional design principles, Mozambique