7. Problems and lessons from irrigation projects in less developed countries of Africa.
Development Southern Africa, 3, 4, 1986, 19 pp.
This paper reviews important constraints to the development of small-holder irrigation schemes in less developed areas of Africa. It is based on two case studies from Southern Africa and experience elsewhere on the continent. Lessons from past experience and the institutional and human development considerations required for successful projects are discussed.
A survey of the literature on Third World irrigation projects, and in Africa in particular, shows that with few exceptions the economic success of irrigation projects falls far short of the expectations of planners, politicians and development agencies. Even on the few relatively successful projects, there appear to be increasing social and ecological problems which will eventually have negative economic effects.
At present, irrigation plays a rather insignificant role in African agriculture. Of Africa's 150 million hectares of cultivated land, only about 9 million hectares are under irrigation. Of this, approximately 75 per cent is in Egypt, the Sudan and Madagascar. Small-holder irrigation in Africa is generally characterized by low productivity. Persistently low performance on irrigation projects poses one of the biggest problems for planners, policy makers, financing agencies, managers and participants alike. As African nations face a continuing decline in per capita food production, increasing priority is being given to irrigation development. National development plans of countries such as Kenya and Zimbabwe, as well as some of the independent South African states, such as Ciskei, Transkei and Venda, emphasize the role of small-holder irrigation development for food as well as rural development.
By its very nature, irrigation development is particularly prone to human problems. This is because the introduction of irrigation commonly necessitates a change in the way of life of those participating in irrigation projects, making it difficult for planners to predict future human behavior.
This review, faced as it was by space considerations, has been somewhat too generalized to make sweeping conclusions. However, considering available literature and the two case studies reviewed in this paper, it can be concluded that success depends on integration between technology, management, participants and the socioeconomic situation. Poorly planned projects suffer from lack of such integration, especially in the field of management, organization and implementation. The institutional environment in which irrigation takes place has received little attention from irrigation planners. Infrastructural development and economic constraints are rarely so bad as to cause collapse of the project.
The causes of the lack of success of individual irrigation projects in Africa are complex. One of the problems is the one-sided emphasis on the technical components of projects. At the basis of this is the attitude of many project planners and managers who primarily measure the success of projects according to physical development and agricultural production. Such a viewpoint neglects the fact that projects have not only a technical but also an equally significant socioeconomic character. In view of this, it makes sense to regard development projects as socio-technical systems which can only be deemed to be successful when all persons and groups concerned co-operate effectively and satisfy their objectives. This co-operation will vary according to the type of project.
On the basis of this review and experience in Africa, certain prerequisites for successful small-holder irrigation development have been defined:
- Institutional requirements
The importance of engineering, agronomy and soils' research are not being minimized; nevertheless this paper has shown that in less developed countries institutional, social and economic aspects are generally responsible for poor performance and therefore require more research.
Retrospective studies of management and performance could be integrated into any technical or socioeconomic rehabilitation which may be required.
In the long run, there is a need for integration of evaluation research at successive stages of a project. It is vital that mechanisms be developed for proper assessment and evaluation to modify projects when necessary, as well as avoid unnecessary expenditure on projects which are doomed to failure.
1230 92 - 11/51
Asia, Pakistan, study, sample villages, irrigation organization, irrigation management, water supply, water resources, water distribution system, water allocation, maintenance operations
MIR KALAN SHAH
[Ukrainian] [English] [Russian]