Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Evaluation of USAID/OFDA Small Scale Irrigation Programs in Zimbabwe and Zambia 2003-2006: Lessons for Future Programs
Final Report
March 2008
Douglas J Merrey, Amy Sullivan, Julius Mangisoni, Francis Mugabe and Mwalimu Simfukwe
Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)


The United States Agency for International Development’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, Southern Africa Regional Office (USAID/OFDA/SARO) requested the Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) to carry out an evaluation of two types of small scale irrigation programs that it had been supporting: drip irrigation programs in Zimbabwe, and treadle pump irrigation programs in Zambia. USAID/OFDA requested that the evaluation build on recent research where possible, determine whether the technologies were actually adopted by recipients and if not why not; identify, for those who had adopted the technologies and integrated them into their livelihood strategies, what the perceived benefits were; and determine the factors for successful adoption and continued use after project completion. The intent therefore is to identify the lessons learned in the past in order to design more effective programs in the future.

Box 1. The Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network

Launched formally in 2002, FANRPAN’s mission is to promote effective Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR) policies by facilitating linkages and partnerships between governments, Regional Economic Communities and civil society, and building capacity and implementing effective, targeted and demand-driven policy analysis and dialogue at national and regional levels. Its work is focused on southern Africa, where it collaborates with both SADC and COMESA. Its modest Secretariat is located in Pretoria, South Africa. It has national nodes in 12 of the 14 SADC countries, and has strong partnerships with a large number of international, regional, and national institutions, including governments in the region, research institutions, farmer organizations (e.g., SACAU), agro-businesses, and NGOs. FANRPAN works closely with both the NEPAD Secretariat and FARA. Its comparative advantage lies in its ability to manage regional and multi-country policy research programs, and at both regional and country levels, convene multi-stakeholder policy dialogues including representatives from government, private sector, farming unions, policy research institutions and non-governmental organizations. Therefore, it has a unique capacity to provide evidence-based support for stakeholders’ deliberations on FANR policy discussions. Further information is available at

This report is organized as follows: section two provides an overview of the methodology and approach of the study, and the following section (three) is a brief synthesis of and guide to the research literature on small scale (micro) irrigation technologies. There are then two sections (four and five) synthesizing the major findings from Zimbabwe and Zambia. Section six compares the findings from the two countries. This is followed by section seven summarizing the main findings and conclusions. Section eight provides specific action-oriented recommendations for future small scale irrigation programs while section 9 contains brief concluding remarks.

Methodology and Approach

The study combines qualitative and quantitative methodologies in each of the two countries in order to identify in an objective manner the actual impacts and outcomes of the programs, and to obtain the views, perspectives, observations and suggestions of a cross section of program participants from USAID, NGOs, and farmers themselves. It builds on a previous broad assessment of experiences with micro-agricultural water management technologies in the southern African region that was partly supported by USAID/OFDA (IWMI 2006), and uses a quantitative methodology for impact assessment that was used to assess the impact of treadle pumps in Malawi as part of that regional study (Mangisoni 2006). In Zimbabwe, it also builds on a recent larger-scale assessment of experiences with drip irrigation kits done by ICRISAT and the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) (Rohrbach et al. 2006).

For the quantitative assessments, FANRPAN engaged with the Department of Land and Water Resources Management at Midlands State University, Gweru in Zimbabwe (hereafter MSU/Gweru), and in Zambia with its national host institutional node, the Agricultural Consultative Forum (ACF), Lusaka. FANRPAN requested Dr. Julius Mangisoni, who had carried out the Malawi treadle pump poverty impact assessment study mentioned above, to go to each country and provide training and technical support to design the studies. Given resource limitations, in both cases the teams focused on specific districts or regions where the USAID/OFDA programs had been implemented, and drew a sample of both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries. These reports are critical sources for this report and constitute two of the study outputs (Simfukwe et al. 2008; Mugabe et al. 2008).

For the qualitative assessment, Dr. Amy Sullivan visited both countries for about a week each, and with the assistance of our national partners, interviewed as many of the participants in the small scale irrigation programs as was possible. Her reports are outputs for this evaluation (Sullivan 2008a, 2008b). In Zimbabwe, she found that the USAID Mission staff members who had been involved were no longer at USAID but some were available for discussions (current USAID Mission staff had no knowledge of the program); she also did field visits and interviewed farmer beneficiaries with the assistance of the Midlands State University team. In Zambia, she met a wide range of participants from USAID and NGOs, as well as selected farmer beneficiaries. Her observations are a major source of insights, conclusions and recommendations of this study.

The overall leader of the study, Douglas Merrey, had led the regional assessment of experiences carried out previously by IWMI (2006), and was also a consultant to the ICRISAT and UZ study (Rohrbach et al. 2006) of Zimbabwe drip kit experiences. He took responsibility for integrating the findings from the literature reviews, quantitative studies and qualitative assessment in the two countries to prepare this final synthesis report.

Our expectation was that Dr. Mangisoni’s visits to work with the country teams would result in the use of appropriate sampling procedures, similar data collection tools and analytical methods, and therefore some degree of comparability. This expectation was partly but not fully achieved, as both teams adapted their quantitative surveys to their understandings of the situation on the ground. Therefore, for example, the Zimbabwe team felt the techniques for measuring impacts on poverty are not relevant since people obtain their staple food from dry land maize fields, not drip irrigated gardens. We also expected that Dr. Sullivan’s visit and interaction with the country teams would result in more integration between the two analytical streams, but largely because of delays in implementing the quantitative studies, this too was not fully achieved. Nevertheless, given the resources available, the findings of both the qualitative and quantitative studies in both countries do provide a basis for arriving at important conclusions and presenting specific recommendations for the future.

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