Institutional Water Resources Management and Livelihood Adaptation: A Case from Kilombero Rural Areas, Tanzania

  • Paul Vedeld
  • Edgar Liheluka
  • Gimbage E. MbeyaleEmail author


The impacts of irrigation schemes on poor people’s livelihoods are studied in Kilombero, Tanzania. Total household income is 2 times higher for improved irrigation scheme farmers, and their farm income is 3 times higher than in traditional rainfed farmers. We further find that reported land productivity is 4–6 times higher in improved rice-irrigation fields. While the income of these farmers has gone up, so have their costs (3 times higher input costs). Looking at local people’s dependence on water, households on average report to derive 43 % of their income from irrigation, and the dependence is even higher for poorer groups of households (57 %). Improved schemes come with formalized systems of rights and duties, monitoring, control, sanctions and water-user fee structures. This necessitates introducing new institutions on top of existing traditional systems for resource management. The new systems are bricolaged into existing systems, so in practice, traditional and modern irrigation schemes are not conducted very differently. Local people generally seem to manage these irrigation systems well within reasonable conflict levels. There is, however, concern that the new policy, advertised as the devolution of water rights to local communities, could lead to increased central control over rural water, especially when the hydropower sector’s priorities (40 % of total water) sector’s priorities constrain dry season irrigation. Within the agricultural sector large-scale commercial farmers may further access the majority of irrigation water at the expense of small-scale farmers.


Total Income Irrigation Scheme Traditional Scheme Water Access Poor Group 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Vedeld
    • 1
  • Edgar Liheluka
    • 1
  • Gimbage E. Mbeyale
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Norwegian University of Life SciencesAsNorway
  2. 2.Sokoine University of AgricultureMorogoroTanzania

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