Smallholder Irrigation Schemes Vital for Food Security – Master’s Research Finds

Research by Mr Tinashe Lindel Dirwai to improve water productivity and uncover new water management strategies to sustain smallholder irrigation farming was rewarded when he graduated with a Master’s degree in Agricultural Engineering.

With the rise in food insecurity experienced in Africa in recent years, Dirwai believes that smallholder irrigation schemes are key to attaining food security at village and small-scale farming level.

‘My desire to diagnose the underlying factors that hinder growth and development drive my passion for poverty alleviation,’ said Dirwai.

His research focused on water governance in smallholder irrigation schemes with the major problem identified being poor institutional integration.

The study also revealed that smallholder irrigation schemes do not exist in a vacuum. ‘There is an idealised governance and there are arrangements that work,’ said Dirwai. ‘So if recommendations from the study are taken up, we can slowly and ultimately move towards an approach where we have hybridised smallholder irrigation scheme governance models that balance the formal and informal policy arrangements.’

Dirwai, who holds a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Zimbabwe, chose UKZN for his postgraduate studies because of the Institution’s research culture and the quality of the graduates it produces.

He is currently enrolled for a PhD in UKZN’s School of Engineering.

‘My master’s studies were a cocktail of experiences – good, bad and ugly. I believe in God, so I weathered both the social and academic storms and I enjoyed it,’ said Dirwai.

Dirwai has published three journal articles and has received the Best Young Scientist Presenter Award – under the Water Governance theme – at the Waternet Regional Symposium in Namibia (2017) and Zambia (2018) respectively.

‘Mr Dirwai is a sharp, hardworking young man with loads of energy,’ reported his supervisors Dr Aidan Senzanje and Dr Maxwell Mudhara. ‘He always approached the research challenges we threw at him with gusto and enthusiasm and went the extra mile. We are impressed that his research resulted in three journal articles!’

Sharing his recipe for academic success, Dirwai said: ‘It’s never easy but the trick is to stay focused and do everything one step at a time. Do not worry about the circumstances. Setbacks are temporary.’

Words: Christian Ishimwe

Photographs: Rajesh Jantilal and Supplied