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Quantitative Assessment of the Effectiveness of Drip Irrigation Kits in Alleviating Food Shortages and its Success in Zimbabwe: A case study of Gweru and Bikita Districts
Final Report
February 2008
Francis T Mugabe, Joseph Chivizhe and Chipo Hungwe
Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)


Introduction

Zimbabwe is divided into five agro-ecological regions. These natural regions are a classification of the agricultural potential of the country, from Agro-ecological Natural Region I, which represents the high altitude wet areas, to Agro-ecological Natural Region V which receives low and erratic rainfall averaging 600 mm per annum (Vincent and Thomas, 1960).

There are 170 communal lands, totalling 163,500 km2 or 42% of Zimbabwe (Anderson, et al., 1993). About 75% of these communal lands are in Natural Regions IV and V and depend on rainfed crop production as the main source of their staple food. These semi-arid areas receive less than 600 mm per annum with frequent droughts (Vincent and Thomas, 1960). The rainfall is also erratic, poorly distributed and falls predominantly for only a few months each year resulting in livelihood insecurity since water scarcity and food security are interrelated problems (Gowing, 2003). Good crop yields are achieved in three out of five years (Nyamudeza, 1998), forcing the communities to rely on stored underground water (Lovell, 2000; Mbetu, 1993) or water stored in dams, for vegetable production during the dry years (Mugabe et al., 2003).

Maize is the staple food of the communities living in the Communal lands of Zimbabwe. However, maize fails in most years especially in the semi-arid areas such that people resort to gardening as a source of income to purchase food and for subsistance. A study carried out by Campbell et al. (2002) in Chivi shows the importance of gardening in the semi-arid areas of Zimbabwe. All the households sampled engaged in dryland crop production with 84% having access to gardens for small-scale irrigation. Slightly more than half of the gross income from gardening comprises cash while about a quarter of the dryland crop gross output is sold with the balance left for subsistence purposes (Campbell et. al., 2002). Garden production stands out in three ways firstly it is something practiced by a wide range of household types. Secondly, a high proportion of its income is cash (as compared to dryland production), and thirdly it is predominantly women who provide labor for gardening production (Campbell et. al., 2002).

In addition to cash income, specific environmental benefits of community gardens include reduction in pressure to cultivate marginal land, particularly streambanks, and the promotion of longer-term management strategies due to decreased risk and increased security of tenure that the schemes bring (Lovell et al., 1998)

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