Rethinking the concept of water distribution in smallholder irrigation
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The issues raised are examined in the context of Chibuwe Irrigation Scheme. On the basis of how water was distributed between 1993 and 1996, this chapter hopes to make some observations about water distribution in particular and water management in general. The material points to water distribution being the domain of the water bailiff where he is the main but not the only player. Technical and social skills were important to make water distribution a reality. In this context, technical skills referred to the operation of technical infrastructure while social skills dealt with negotiations, ability and capacity regarding water distribution. The skills, however, were mostly self-taught in the light of largely inappropriate official management models. Important observations from the material are that, in the first instance, technology need not only be put at the centre of the irrigation discourse, but should include non-engineering aspects if fresh insights are to be obtained. This is because smallholder irrigation schemes involve more than the application of engineering principles. Moreover, management must be redefined to take account of the specific contexts of the schemes in question and, must of necessity, be preoccupied less with putting labels on what ideally must be done. This entails realizing that organograms when used as management frameworks constitute vertical attempts to impose management models that do not take account of the fact that management is done by a variety of actors on a 'horizontal' scale. Different actors stake out management domains for themselves.