Innovations to Promote Growth among Small-scale Irrigators in Africa: An Ethnographic and Knowledge-Exchange Approach

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Global Studies

Abstract

If policy-makers are to foster growth in most developing countries today, where economies remain heavily focused on agriculture, they must choose which of two ongoing trends to support. The choice is especially clear in sub-Saharan Africa, where suitable land and water for cultivation are scarce and where climate change is underway, compounding the shortages caused by population expansion. They can endorse the neocolonial trend of allowing foreign corporations to acquire the best land and water in order to work large holdings entirely for export. Or they can nurture the capacity of small farmers and irrigators in existing communities to grow crops for household subsistence while also producing a surplus, or even other special cash crops, for sale in domestic and international markets. The proposed research would attempt to do the latter by encouraging innovation, in a novel effort to enhance local food security while increasing cash incomes and fostering market growth. The aim is to increase the capacity of households and communities to produce for both purposes while also adapting to climate change, by promoting technologies that improve the efficiency with which basic resources are utilized, particularly water. These technologies-including both 'hard' and 'soft' types, new ones as well as old-have been adopted by farmers in certain parts of Tanzania, Malawi, and Bangladesh, in dynamic irrigation communities that would be sites of the proposed research. The study would first explore these local adaptations ethnographically in three selected villages, and then sponsor a programme of reciprocal knowledge exchange between their water-user groups. By means of the latter, the project would seek to expand the options available to the farmers residing in each place, thereby influencing--in ways that cannot be predicted but can be carefully observed--the direction and pace of change. Of great value in its own right, as a comparative study of adaptations to emerging rural markets and to climate change, the research would also break new ground in the field of participatory development.

Planned Impact

The results of the proposed research will potentially benefit many people, both within academia and outside it, but perhaps no one more than policy-makers who are concerned with economic growth. It will be of special interest to others having a particular interest in the contribution that irrigation-and irrigation improvement-can potentially make to that process.

The results of the research, including profiles of the irrigation systems and a discussion of the other economic innovations mentioned in the Case for Support, will be presented in the following outputs, which will be disseminated as widely and rapidly as possible through several channels:

1. preliminary and final reports on each of the three cases studied, as required by the ESRC and DfID;
2. one version of the students' individual case studies, each of which will be turned into an article for publication, hopefully in a special issue of a major scholarly journal.
2. a second version to take the form of a chapter for an edited book volume presenting all of the project's final results (to be edited by the PI), which may be prepared during the last year of the research (assuming that a publishing contract can be arranged);
3. papers to be given by each member of the field research team (including the PI) at annual professional meetings and other academic forums;
4. ethnographic profiles of the three studied communities, to be presented on the project web page;
5. presentations given by members of the research team at a one-day conference, at Cranfield University, where the results of the research will be disseminated publicly.

Two principal channels will be used to ensure that most of these outputs are disseminated rapidly, and have the broadest possible impact, among agencies and NGO's working in the irrigation sector, both in the UK and abroad. The first will be an informal electronic collaboration with four key global organizations which have expressed interest in the project: the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka (IWMI), the FAO in Rome, the International Conference on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) in the UK, and the International Network on Participatory Irrigation Management (INPIM), now headquartered in Pakistan. As soon as the project reports become available, they will be posted on the project web page and sent electronically to these organizations (with the ESRC's permission), for dissemination as working papers to their regional offices, and to their staff and to their wider membership, including participating NGO's. These will essentially be offered as a form of common intellectual property, for general use in development. Other opportunities to do the same with other organizations will be taken advantage of as they become available, such as the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP). Seminar presentations will hopefully also be made at DfID and ESRC-sponsored events in the UK, or perhaps at the Overseas Development Institute.

The second channel will be a one-day Dissemination Workshop, to be held at Cranfield University toward the end of the last year of the project. A senior delegate of the main irrigation development agency of each of the three countries included in the study-Tanzania, Malawi and Bangladesh--will be invited, probably a person from that country's embassy in each case, along with 3 irrigation experts from major research institutions in the UK. This event, along with the other outputs and activities described above, should ensure that the results of the project are disseminated as widely as possible, and that the research has the broadest possible impact.

Publications

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Harrison E (2015) Anthropology and impact evaluation: a critical commentary in Journal of Development Effectiveness

 
Description 1. Knowledge, innovation and moral economies. One of the central questions that this project set out to answer was whether, in contexts within which irrigation has been well established, there are specific elements of the moral economy that could be replicated in contexts in which it is newer. Can the 'soft technology' of resource management be 'transferred'? Our answer to this question is 'probably not', as the evidence from the study shows that increasing pressure on water resources has resulted in institutional pluralism where interests and power at different scales can subvert any benefits of a 'local' moral economy. Even at the local level, conflict and contestation over resources, particularly land and water, would possibly even make such an attempt at transfer ethically problematic.

Nonetheless, there is considerable appetite and ability to learn about 'hard technology' across contexts and farmers will adapt these to their own realities. However new knowledge and innovations are not universally welcomed. An example from Malawi shows that new ideas about small-scale irrigation tend to be resisted when 'lead farmer' models of knowledge transfer are embarked upon.

2. Formal and informal institutions. The formalisation of existing irrigation practices at a local level has several drawbacks with regard to equity and poverty: it often results in the 'capture' of institutions and resources by those already in a position of strength; and generally fails to take into the broader hydro-politics within which this access is embedded. Institutionally, the bodies that are charged with promoting and developing irrigation tend to be insufficiently integrated to the broader national political context for managing agriculture and natural resources. This contributes to difficulties in managing scarce resources such as water, particularly across administrative boundaries. At present there is insufficient attention to these challenges in each of our research sites.

The model of promoting irrigation in smallholder 'schemes' remains popular. These have historically suffered from management problems and this is a problem that persists. The problem reflects a seldom-discussed paradox: that, usually surrounded by a catchment of settlements, such schemes serve farmers who, together, do not constitute a 'community'. The concept of a community of small irrigators is problematic where those involved have connections within and outside of those involved in small-scale irrigation. They also have diverse other calls on their time and energy, including in their dry-land farming.

3. Resilience, poverty, livelihoods and growth. Small-scale irrigation can and does contribute to improved livelihoods for many irrigating farmers. They continue with it because it makes economic sense to them. However, it does not necessarily contribute to broader economic growth objectives as such benefits are not captured in national reporting data. At the same time, support to irrigation can contribute to increased resilience for those who benefit from such support. However, it is vitally important to consider the extent to which such increased resilience for some comes at the cost of increased vulnerability for others. In Malawi, we found strong evidence for this taking place and are engaging with policy makers regarding the possibility of this being reinforced in the future.
Exploitation Route The initial proposal contained pathways to impact that were not appropriate to the revised project objectives. Our findings suggest the following pathways to impact.

1. In November 2014 and May 2016, we held a series of strategic meetings and presentations in Malawi, from international through to local levels. Key forums for this include CISANET, an umbrella organisation of NGOs and donors working in the sector; regular meetings of significant donors to the sector, including the World Bank and African Development Bank and through them to the major irrigation initiatives: IRLAD, SVIP and GBI; presentations to the District meeting in Nsanje District that brings together NGO, donor projects and government department; and local level meetings with farmers and the Water Users' Association.
2. In Malawi, working with our former collaborator, now an MP, in order to influence policy within the Malawi government. We have been invited to present project findings to Parliament next year.
3. Academic outputs targeted to high quality journals. To date, two articles have been published (Journal of Peasant Studies and Journal of Development Effectiveness), a further one is in press (Water Alternatives), two are under review (Journal of Modern African Studies and Journal of Political Economy) and two are drafted (for submission to World Development and Critique of Anthropology)
4. We have been communicating with relevant projects under phase two of the DEGRP, including that on 'Studying Africa Farmer-Led Irrigation'. This has included a collaborative workshop in Tanzania organised with the National Irrigation Commission. We would anticipate working closely with this project in ensuring that findings from our project are incorporated and taken forward as part of their impact activities.
Sectors Other

URL http://www.sussex.ac.uk/global/showcase/researchprojects/small_scale_irrigation
 
Description There has been an interest in the findings of the research especially in Malawi and Tanzania. As detailed under 'engagement activities', a wide range of key stakeholders, particularly among national policy makers in study countries, has expressed an interest in the findings and suggested that they are likely to influence future policy and practice. Policy briefings have been completed and circulated and discussed in a series of dissemination meeting and presentations. In Malawi, this has included direct contributions to the new National Agricultural Policy and engagement with key governmental and third sector organisations, as well as networking with related research projects. In Tanzania, our research partner, Anna Mdee, has contributed to the review of the five year economic plan, based on fieldwork findings. She has also participated in a policy workshop with the National Irrigation Commission. She has been invited to contribute to a World Bank audit of legal frameworks on water in Tanzania and has used material gathered as part of the project in a consultancy on the political economy of agricultural intensification in Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi. In the UK, Anna Mdee and Elizabeth Harrison participated in an ODI/DEGRP roundtable on irrigation's potential in sub-Saharan Africa (March 2019). This included policy makers from NGOs and donors (DFID, World Bank) as well as the project leaders from other irrigation-focused DEGRP projects. In 2018, Anna Mdee participated in the SAFI meeting in Bellagio which enabled reflection on the findings of these three related projects and resulted in a special issue of the journal Water Alternatives (Mdee and Harrison 2019). Anna Mdee also discussed the research in the context of a Sustainability Research Institute workshop, with attendance from researchers on the £7.8million AFRICAP project on climate smart agriculture who expressed particular interest in the project findings.
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Other
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Invitation to participate in the National Wetland Policy dialogue
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Request to comment on World Bank audit on legal frameworks on water in Tanzania conducted by team on Enabling the Business of Agriculture
Geographic Reach Africa 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Collaboration with SAFI project 
Organisation Manchester University
PI Contribution Participation in meeting held in Bellagio organised by the SAFI project
Collaborator Contribution Meeting participation (Anna Mdee)
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2015
 
Description Partnership with Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania 
Organisation Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania
Country Tanzania, United Republic of 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Anna Mdee is working with Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania, based in Morogoro, to incorporate the findings of the research into a multi-stakeholder project that attempts to address the resource conflicts identified by our research.
Collaborator Contribution Facilitation of dialogue between different stakeholders
Impact No outputs as yet
Start Year 2015
 
Description Disseminating meeting with Enhancing Community Resilience Programme PMU 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Irrigation Specialist, a member of the PMU noted. 'Thank you for improving my knowledge as an individual and that of the consortium. I have realised that some of the issues we take for granted actually affect the quality of our programming. We have been wondering why the area under conservation farming has not increased, but now you have shed some light at this. Some issues (relating to challenges with getting water rights and delays with environmental impact assessments) we will take up with CEEPA (advocacy group)'.

PMU noted areas where improvements would be necessary. Requested for the full project report and any outputs on operationalising resilience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Meeting with CISANET, Malawi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was a briefing meeting with members of the key coordinating body of agricultural development organisations in Malawi, drawing on a range of practitioners. CISANET is also playing a role in the new Shire Valley Irrigation Project and has stated that findings will be important in relation to this. Among the observations about the research, the following were identified by participants as of particular interest:
1. Ethnographic and long term studies are not commonly undertaken by local Malawian researchers, and as such most reports generated do not give the depth of analysis as provided in the Project report. The approach to data collection and analysis was seen as robust, and providing a fresh perspective to understanding issues and their implications for agriculture. The study's analysis was helpful for understanding otherwise overlooked areas which, apparently, are key to transforming agriculture.
2. The implications of climate change have received less attention in policy, and this study makes a strong case for the consideration for adapting irrigation to climate change. This will be noted and contextualised in future planning.
3. The case studies provided a rich insight into issues at the local level, including the effect of policies on households and irrigation schemes, e.g. land and water rights and the issue of access for people not directly linked to the irrigation schemes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Meeting with Flood response project, Malawi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This project is a successor to IRLADP, which has been focal in the research. Feedback was provided and discussion focused on
• The outcome of IRLADP investments following the floods experienced in 2015.
• Agricultural intensification and gendered implications with reference to irrigation development.
• Role of donors in determining the priorities especially in agriculture. Questions asked concerning what options could have been considered for the same amount of investment?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Meeting with NASFAM, Malawi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a briefing meeting with the National Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM).
Discussions were wide ranging but included a focus on:
• Farm productivity and rice value chains
• Discussions also focused on the factors that constrain improvement of rice yields, sharing of water, land and water rights and rice productivity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Meeting with Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture Chairperson 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Given option to present in parliament.

Interest in a policy brief highlighting issues discussed and brief shared with parliament
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Meetings with Scheme Committees and farmers 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact Some of the issues were identified as important and will be the subject of forthcoming planning and management meetings.

The scheme management noted that there would make some scheme management changes on the basis of the information supplied.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Policy briefing meeting with Irrigation department, senior staff 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was a briefing with key senior staff of the department of irrigation in Malawi who have expressed continued interest in the research. Key areas of interest for them are: gross margin analysis, technological innovation, climate change adaptation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Policy review 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Anna Mdee invited to give inputs into review of economics five year development plan for Tanzania. Drawing on research findings from Choma and Dakawa to do this.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
 
Description Policy roundtable 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Participation in ODI policy roundtable on 'developing irrigation's potential in sub-Saharan Africa'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Post fieldwork workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The purpose of this workshop was to bring together the research team with a limited group of selected advisors to 1) share key findings from each of the field sites and b) develop the impact and disemmination strategy in relation to this. The main result of the activity was a modified impact plan in the light of comments from advisors.

Revised impact strategy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation at the Shire River Basin Project Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The talk generated some discussion around Malawi's vision for agricultural development and the model that was being followed. There was also an active debate after my presentation which focused on possible strategies for addressing livelihood concerns in the upstream to protect downstream users from siltation, with 'better charcoal' being highlighted as one of the ongoing interventions. People deliberated on the issue of lack of coordination at catchment level as well as the challenges of policies not speaking t o each other.

I was invited by key personnel in government to discuss some of the issues I had raised in the talk. These include the Chief Land Management Officer, and the Irrigation Specialist in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.shirebasin.mw/blog/2014/08/stakeholder-conference
 
Description Presentation to ESRC funded Agricultural Climate Resilience to El-Nino in sub-Saharan Africa (ACRES) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This presentation was to participants in the ESRC funded Agricultural Climate Resilience to El-Nino in sub-Saharan Africa (ACRES) project.

The ACRES team was interested in our experiences with conservation agriculture and its implications for building resilience
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning in Africa (SAIRLA) Stakeholder Consultation meeting, Malawi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a planning meeting on an agriculture focused project. SAIRLA team was interested in the knowledge exchange approach and understanding our approach to generating impact on policy. The project team was specifically interested in our findings in relation to:
• Sampling strategy
• Engagement of stakeholders
• Strategies for influencing policy
• Conceptualisation of resilience and findings related to this
• Agricultural intensification from a women and youth perspective
• Extension officer-farmer relationship in innovations
• Entitlement to land in dryland and irrigated systems
• Conservation farming and its contribution to resilience
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to Technical Working Group on Land and Water (Climate Smart Agriculture thematic group), Malawi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Canford Chiroro presented research findings to the parliamentary Technical Working Group on Land and Water (Climate Smart Agriculture thematic group), in Malawi. The presentations is part of the project's contribution to a review on the draft Agricultural Policy for Malawi.

Key observations made by participants included:
1. The approach of feeding back to technical working group was highly appreciated, and it was mentioned that the project's focus was linked to the policy process and came at a good time. The Chair had said they would send the draft policy for our comments before submission to Parliament, and this was well received by participants.
2. The various forms of knowledge exchange explored in the study were discussed at length, with agreement on the merits and constraints they present. It was noted that the extension policy was also due to be prepared and some of the issues raised were an appropriate evidence base for consideration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation to policy workshop with National Irrigation Commission, Tanzania 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Anna Mdee presented project findings at a workshop with senior members of the Tanzanian National Irrigation Commission entitled "New Directions for Irrigation Development in Tanzania : The Context of Public Private Partnership " This workshop was co-organised with NIC, IFPRI and colleagues at Manchester University involved in the DEGRP SAFI project. The invited audience included technical professionals in government ministries, researchers, farmer organizations, NGOs, donor agencies, and the private sector working on irrigation and water management in Tanzania.
The objectives of the workshop were to:
Review recent trends and goals for irrigation development in Tanzania.
ii. Examine alternative paths for irrigation investment by government and private
sector, including smallholder producers, and their potential for further development.
o Research findings on public-private partnerships (PPPs) and small-scale
irrigation development, and remaining information gaps and data issues.
iii. Identify social and economic impacts of irrigation development in rural communities
o Methodologies to assess how different paths for irrigation development generate opportunities and constraints for rural people to benefit from irrigation, and
o How these differ for different social groups (men, women, youth). iv. Explore the role of irrigation policy in fostering PPP.
o What models do we have for supporting, regulating and investing in irrigation?
o What policy alternatives need to be considered to respond to different irrigation scenarios?

The expected outputs were:

? Identification of key policy areas, appropriate PPP models, and action needed to develop or implement them
? Identification of possible input from research and development partners to support these actions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Production of briefing notes for engagement meetings, also posted online 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Briefing letter only just published online, so unlikely to have generated results yet. Engagement meeting discussed elsewhere

None yet - too early
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006,2014
URL http://www.sussex.ac.uk/global/showcase/researchprojects/small_scale_irrigation
 
Description Resilience conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation generated discussion and ongoing engagement with others working in similar fields.

After the talk, conference participants requested further information regarding the research and for copies of the full paper, once drafted
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.sussex.ac.uk/global/research/researchprojects/small_scale_irrigation
 
Description Workshop: Sustainability Research Institute, Leeds 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Interest shown by participants in the £7.8million AFRICAP project on climate smart agriculture
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018