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Water and Climate

Transforming smallholder irrigation into profitable and self-sustaining systems in southern Africa

Project Code: LWR/2016/137
Research Program Manager: Dr. Robyn Johnston
Project Leader: Jamie Pittock - Australian National University
JUN 2017
JUN 2021
Project Status: Legally Committed/Active
Key partners
Ardhi University
CSIRO Agriculture and Food
CSIRO Land and Water
Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics
National Institute of Irrigation
University of South Australia


The project aimed to improve farmer livelihoods, equity and community management in smallholder irrigation schemes in southern Africa.

Most government-run irrigation schemes in Africa have failed or significantly under-perform, for a complex array of reasons. However, ACIAR project FSC/2013/006 found that agricultural innovation platforms, combined with soil moisture and solute measuring and monitoring, substantially increase farmers' productivity and incomes and make irrigation schemes more self-sustaining.

The follow-on research project tested how best to spread those findings beyond individual irrigation schemes to many other irrigation schemes and countries.