In many African countries the rural populations make up the majority of the population. These areas are dependent on agriculture as one of the main economic activities. As such in most African countries the government through its agencies or NGOs often sets up irrigation schemes for small scale farmers. Agriculture coin-cidentally uses the most amounts of water on a national scale compared to other uses such as industry and domestic uses. In Zambia these irrigation schemes are initially proposed as resettlement areas for interested and willing citizens. The schemes are part of the self help and self sufficiency agricultural development policy to keep some residents in the rural areas and control the migration from rural to urban areas, while simultaneously encouraging retired urban workers to return to the rural areas (Bates 1976). Since the 1990s the model of self help has been extended to include poverty alleviation and thus income generation for the rural residents (Schacter 2000). The schemes are also allegedly demand driven with the local users proposing the installation of infrastructure through their application for community projects to NGOs and the relevant government agency.
The various actors apply specific knowledge and theoretical frameworks (Mosse 2003, Long 2001). The implementers of the schemes require a consensus from the community, specify the technology installed, layout the membership of the scheme and shape the expectations of the project; Figs. 2 and 3 illustrate some of the technology applied. The applied frameworks result in specific responses from the local actors who redeploy them for their own uses. The redeployment manifests through the more popular and vocal members of society furthering their interests using the interactions with the project teams and other local actors. It often entails divergent results from those expected by the implementation teams and policy makers. It stems from the different expectations and objectives from the projects between the local actors and the project implementers that are often external actors.
The knowledge frameworks applied in the selection of technology cater to the competencies or speciality of the project implementer. The technology itself is embedded in the implicit choices made by the project teams (Olivier de Sardan 2005, Latour 1997). Its implicit nature acknowledges that often the technology choices are only seen as non optimal after installation. Factors that may have been overlooked, such as limited long term maintenance capabilities and hence the project becoming unsustainable, are eventually revealed (Garb 2004). The selection process of the technology rarely involves the local actors indicating the power relations that imply the project teams have the knowledge and expertise to solve the problems of the local populations. Any consultation ends with the final decision being based on arguments
of costs and models that have been used in other locations. A variety of other factors determine the decision making in community irrigation schemes (Mabry (ed) 1996). A few NGOs working with communities attempt to use traditional technologies, which often cost less and are easier to maintain.
Commercial farmers often operate individually, obtaining water abstraction licences from the national water development board or have local water boards that regulate the use of common water bodies such as aquifers. Technological choices are individually made based on use of the water resources, source of water and the financial resources available.
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