Original Research

The contribution of small-scale rural irrigation schemes towards food security of smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe

Smart Mhembwe, Newman Chiunya, Ernest Dube
Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies | Vol 11, No 1 | a674 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jamba.v11i1.674 | © 2019 Smart Mhembwe, Newman Chiunya, Ernest Dube | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 May 2018 | Published: 09 October 2019

About the author(s)

Smart Mhembwe, Department of Development Studies, Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University, Bindura, Zimbabwe
Newman Chiunya, Department of Development Studies, Zimbabwe Open University, Gweru, Zimbabwe
Ernest Dube, Department of Development Studies, Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University, Bindura, Zimbabwe


Smallholder farmers across Zimbabwe have been facing a problem of food insecurity because of climate-induced droughts and lack of effective use of irrigation schemes. Rainfall patterns in the country have become more unpredictable and inconsistent with the traditional farming seasons. Faced with such challenges, many smallholder farmers in Shurugwi district in the Midlands province of Zimbabwe adopted small-scale irrigation schemes to improve food security. The principal objectives of this study were to examine the status of the irrigation schemes in the district; analyse the need to rehabilitate small-scale irrigation schemes; assess the initiatives towards the revival of irrigation schemes; establish the benefits that can accrue to smallholder farmers from small-scale irrigation schemes and discuss challenges faced by smallholder farmers in the running of small-scale irrigation schemes in rural areas. This qualitative study employed literature and interviews to obtain data from 40 purposively selected participants. The direct observation method was used to compliment the interviews. The findings of the study were that small-scale rural irrigation schemes have the capacity to significantly transform the lives of rural farmers through earning increased reliable income from farming if institutional and capacity issues of the farmers are addressed. Furthermore, the study found that small-scale irrigation schemes can also be a panacea to food security challenges mainly faced by rural households. As such, the article concluded that irrigation schemes are fortress and antidote to the effects of climate change. The study calls for capacity promotion on technical skills for the farmers, the establishment of many new irrigation schemes and the rehabilitation of the existing small-scale irrigation schemes in the country as well as calling on the farmers to adopt climate-smart irrigation.


food security; irrigation schemes; livelihoods; irrigation rehabilitation


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