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Water allocation practices among smallholder farmers in the South Pare Mountains, Tanzania: The issue of scale


  • Mul, M.L.
  • Kemerink, J.S.
  • Vyagusa, N.F.
  • Mshana, M.G.
  • van der Zaag, P.
  • Makurira, H.


The impact of ambitious water sector reforms, that have been implemented in many countries, has not been uniform, especially in Africa. It has been argued that the disconnect between the formal statutory reality at national level and what is happening on the ground may have widened rather than shrunk. There is, therefore, a renewed interest in local water allocation arrangements and how they function. This study looks at water sharing practices and agreements among smallholder farmers in Makanya catchment (300Â km2), which is part of Pangani river basin (42,200Â km2) in northern Tanzania. Existing water sharing agreements have been studied in the Vudee sub-catchment (25Â km2), which has about 38 irrigation furrows of which 20 have micro-dams. Five micro-dams are located at the downstream side of the sub-catchment. At the outlet of the Makanya catchment, farmers practice spate irrigation, using the residual flows from the highlands to irrigate. Based on interviews with smallholder farmers and supported by hydrological data water sharing agreements were found to exist among irrigators using the same furrow, among furrows using the same river and at sub-catchment scale. Some agreements date back to the 1940s. They mostly specify water sharing on a rotational basis at all three scales. No water sharing agreements were found at catchment scale, such as between the water users in Vudee sub-catchment and Makanya village. The study concludes that, as a result of the increase in demand for a diminishing resource, tradeoffs between upstream and downstream water uses have emerged at an increasingly larger spatial scale. At the catchment scale, downstream water users have changed their practices to accommodate the changes in the flow. Currently these claims for water do not clash as upstream water users use the base flow (which does not reach downstream anymore) and downstream water users utilise the flood flows. The water sharing arrangements at sub-catchment scale are negotiated through the social networks of the smallholder farmers and are therefore build on the social ties between the communities. However, at catchment scale, the social ties appear relatively weak in addition to the hydrological disconnect; these links are possibly too weak to build new water sharing arrangements on. It may therefore be necessary to involve more formal levels of government, such as Pangani Basin Water Office, to facilitate the negotiation process and create awareness on the inter-linkages of various water uses at catchment scale.

Suggested Citation

  • Mul, M.L. & Kemerink, J.S. & Vyagusa, N.F. & Mshana, M.G. & van der Zaag, P. & Makurira, H., 2011. "Water allocation practices among smallholder farmers in the South Pare Mountains, Tanzania: The issue of scale," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 98(11), pages 1752-1760, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agiwat:v:98:y:2011:i:11:p:1752-1760

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bhatt, Yogesh & Bossio, Deborah & Enfors, E. & Gordon, L. & Kongo, V. & Kosgei, J. R. & Makurira, H. & Masuki, K. & Mul, M. & Tumbo, S. D., 2006. "Smallholder system innovations in integrated watershed management (SSI): strategies of water for food and environmental security in drought-prone tropical and subtropical agro-ecosystems," IWMI Working Papers H039095, International Water Management Institute.
    2. Turpie, J. K. & Ngaga, Y. M. & Karanja, F. K., 2005. "Preliminary economic assessment of water resources of the Pangani River Basin, Tanzania," Conference Papers h041176, International Water Management Institute.
    3. Swallow, Brent M. & Garrity, Dennis P. & van Noordwijk, Meine, 2001. "The effects of scales, flows and filters on property rights and collective action in watershed management:," CAPRi working papers 16, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    4. Tomasz Potkanski & William Adams, 1998. "Water scarcity, property regimes and irrigation management in Sonjo, Tanzania," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(4), pages 86-116.
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    Cited by:

    1. Caretta, Martina Angela, 2015. "Managing variability and scarcity. An analysis of Engaruka: A Maasai smallholder irrigation farming community," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 318-330.
    2. Minjun Shi & Xiaojun Wang & Hong Yang & Tao Wang, 2014. "Pricing or Quota? A Solution to Water Scarcity in Oasis Regions in China: A Case Study in the Heihe River Basin," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(11), pages 1-20, October.


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