Pathways for Irrigation Development: Policies and Irrigation Performance in Tanzania

Amid global concerns over rising food and fuel prices, changing diets and climate change, irrigated agriculture has an important role to play in increasing food production in an uncertain and resource-constrained world. For many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, it is also a key part of strategies to boost economic growth and tackle rural poverty. This report presents the findings of a rapid review to determine the policies and politics that have shaped irrigation practice and performance in Tanzania over the past 40–50 years. The review seeks to understand drivers (and blockages) of change with respect to improving sector performance and to identify opportunities for innovation. Tanzania has a long history of traditional, or informal, irrigation constructed by smallholder farmers and managed through customary arrangements. Since the 1970s there has also been interest from the state and international donors in investing in farmer-managed irrigation, particularly to introduce modern infrastructure and formal institutions. Tanzania has made significant progress in increasing national food security over the past 20 years, largely because of irrigation expansion. Nonetheless, rural poverty remains endemic and economic growth has failed to translate to social benefits. The irrigation sector itself faces a number of challenges that limit its potential to contribute to national policy objectives, such as growth and poverty reduction. These challenges are complex – the result of various technical, political and institutional factors and drivers of change, operating at multiple scales. It is important to understand these dynamics and how they shape irrigation policy, practice and performance in order to chart plausible pathways for future sector development.