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 (Treadle Pump) Program in Zambia
Final Report
February 2008
Mwalimu Simfukwe, Masiye Nawiko, Hyde Haantuba
Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)


Zambia, with a population of 10.5 million people, has a sub-tropical climate and vegetation. An estimated 9 million hectares or 12% of its total land area is suitable for cultivation. The main agricultural activity of farmers is crop production, followed by poultry farming, livestock production and to a lesser extent, fish farming. Crops are a source of livelihood for many and it is a source of income through marketed produce. The most commonly grown crops are maize (70% of households), cassava (40%), groundnut (38%), and millets (18%).

The country has been divided into three agro-ecological regions. Region I is characterized by low rainfall of less than 800 mm per year. Production is concentrated on pearl millet, sorghum, and livestock rearing. Region II has well-distributed annual rainfall of between 700 to 1000 mm. The main crops cultivated include maize, sorghum groundnuts, tobacco, irrigated wheat, soybean, and horticultural crops. Cassava, pear millet, and bambara nut predominate on the upland with some maize and sorghum, and rice in the flood plains. Region III is the high rainfall area with annual rainfall exceeding 1000 mm. The main food crops are finger millet, bean, and cassava, with maize, coffee, tea and tobacco as cash crops.

Today, irrigated areas in Zambia cover some 26,000 ha. Irrigation is dominated by medium- to large-scale schemes developed mainly through private commercial and parastatal initiatives. Crops under irrigation include wheat, sugar cane, coffee, fruits and vegetables. Irrigation research is being conducted at the National Irrigation Research Station (NIRS).

However, smallholder irrigation had not received much attention mainly due to the absence of appropriate technology. With the advent of the treadle pump, mostly supported through the USAID and related development agencies, irrigation farming among small-scale farmers has grown in importance. Over 2,000 treadle pumps have been accessed by more than 5,000 households, participating either as communal groups or individuals, with several days of related training support provided.

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) for Southern Africa sought to evaluate the treadle pump irrigation program in Zambia from 2003 to the present as a means of determining whether the treadle pump technology was adopted (or not) by participants in Zambia, the extent to which this technology impacted on the poverty status of the sampled households, and what lessons can be learned for future programs.

This study has therefore been conducted to answer the above questions and assess the perceived livelihood benefits realised from the technology by households or institutions. Additionally, the study is expected to determine the factors for successful adoption and continued use after individual projects were completed in Zambia.

A structured questionnaire was designed as the main instrument for survey of beneficiaries while a checklist of questions was also developed for interviewing institutional stakeholders.

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