Brief reflections on water law, water rights, water discourse and the Zambizi Valley
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This paper briefly explores how the old water regime has affected the eastern Zambezi Valley and comparable areas. It is meant to contribute to a sense of the variations in water use and water problems in Zimbabwe. Each paper in this volume represents research conducted in different parts of Zimbabwe and therefore demonstrates differing perspectives on water management issues. The major exception is that of the ZIMWESI team who have all worked in the Eastern Highlands. In the broad consideration of Zimbabwe's water management issues, these differences and variations are analogous to upstream and downstream water users. Like water users, we see the system differently depending upon our perspective and position. In this spirit, I present a slightly different case and perspective than the others presented in this volume. The Zambezi valley's environment is quite harsh; marked by extreme seasons, very high rates of evapo-transpiration during the dry season and great variability in rainfall from year to year. Within the valley, there is little formal irrigation although it has been the site of major development interventions. Like many communal areas in Zimbabwe, no one in the eastern Zambezi Valley has any legal right to withdraw water from the major rivers. The only legal water rights are, in fact, those of the parastatal, the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA), which runs two large estates, one already irrigated, the other to be irrigated this year. It is not dear, however, that lack of water rights per se has blocked small-scale farmers from irrigating their land as much as the terrain and lack of capital. Small-scale farmers in other areas (particularly the eastern highlands) irrigate their land without legal water rights by simply digging furrows to divert water.1 In addition, valley residents hand irrigate their riverine fields and gardens despite laws barring such stream bank cultivation.