The water acts in the Nyachowa catchment area
van der Zaag, Pieter
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This chapter deals with a catchment area in Mutare district: that of the Nyachowa river and its tributaries.2 The catchment area is made up of lands belonging to Shigodora commercial farm and Zimunya communal area. Our interest is the use of its waters. Irrigation infrastructure was developed by both the commercial and communal farmers at the beginning of this century. Since then water demand has increased whilst the catchment has gradually yielded less. In this chapter we attempt to understand how various people with a stake in Nyachowa waters have coped with this situation of competing interests, and what role formal and perceived rights to Nyachowa water has played. On the basis of the Nyachowa experience we wish to contribute to the current discussions in Zimbabwe on reform of the Water Act.3 The problems experienced in the Nyachowa catchment area are epitomised by the Nyachowa Irrigation Scheme (‘the Scheme’). This Scheme was constructed during the 1930s and was assigned an irrigated area of 50 hectares in 1934 by the agriculturalist Alvord who had assisted with its design (Roder, 1965: 106). The last entry in the archival documents concerning the scheme is 1938, reappearing again only in 1954. It is not clear what happened between 1938 and 1954, but during those years ‘African irrigators presumably managed their land without government aid’ (Roder, 1965: 108). In 1961, Roder reports the scheme to be operational. The 28 plot-holders cultivated 45 hectares obtaining maize yields of 1,400 kg per hectare.4 Since the 1980s the plot-holders have received no appreciable water from the Nyachowa river.5 It is therefore doubtful whether we can still speak of the existence of this scheme. Yet it exists in the minds of one-time irrigators and officials.