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Home > Basin > Limpopo > Focal Project in the Limpopo River Basin (PN62)

Full Project Title: Limpopo Basin Focal Project (PN62)


The Limpopo River Basin is comprised of portions of four riparian states, namely Botswana to the west, Zimbabwe to the north, South Africa to the south, and Mozambique to the down stream east.  Increasing population, urban centres, development of dams for industries, mining and agriculture all pull from the limited Limpopo Basin water resources. Competition for these scarce resources comes from powerful stakeholders such as commercial agriculture, mining and environmental interests.

The Limpopo Basin Focal Project as in other BFPs set out to understand linkages between poverty, water, water availability, water productivity, and local institutional arrangements. The goal of this understanding is to bring about global improvements in agricultural water use efficiency, “producing more crop per drop” while increasing livelihood security among natural resource dependent rural communities.

Research Highlights

Research highlights

  • Following the mapping of livelihood zones, the project developed a matrix of suitability of a range of water management interventions, and graded each as low, moderate, or highly relevant (Figure 7.3). Their matrix includes the likelihood of benefits from each intervention accruing to different categories of farmers.
  • This study has shown high productivity potential in the Limpopo Basin when natural resources, infrastructure, market linkages and technologies are present. Rural populations relying on agriculture in the Limpopo Basin should adapt their production systems to prevailing conditions (wet or dry) and take advantage of existing and emerging technologies.
  • Irrigated agriculture supports a small proportion of the rural poor in the basin but there is scope in most areas to increase irrigation productivity.
  • The real life water use regime of millions of rural poor in the Limpopo Basin suggests that households use multiple water sources to meet multiple water needs—as conditions evolve. If agriculture is to provide a ladder out of poverty, water is a necessary pre-condition.
Project Outcomes

Project outcomes

  • The wide range of agricultural water management interventions in the Limpopo Basin clearly illustrates that one size does not fit all when trying to increase water productivity. Different contexts require different types of investments. Markets, household goals, agro-climatic conditions, farming systems, and overall socio-economic and institutional environments necessarily guide choices from menus of options at different scales.
  • The livestock analysis could be improved by including livestock water productivity. Further, to provide information on trends in water productivity, analysis of water productivity over several years is required. Such analysis was not possible within the scope of the study. Analysis over several years would provide information on where water productivity is increasing or decreasing in the basin.
  • At the farm level, careful consideration needs to be given to the balance between increasing water storage capacity, reducing runoff into the system, and increasing water use efficiency. Therefore further research should be done on location- specific conditions, and the best possible mix of approaches and technologies for increasing productivity while improving water use efficiency.
Publications and Outputs

Selected publications and outputs

Project report

Sullivan, A. and L.M. Sibanda 2010. Limpopo Basin Focal Project. CPWF Project Report series, Challenge Program on Water and Food, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 100 p.

Project Partners

Project partners

University of Pretoria, GWP, MPTU, IWMI, IIAM, UB, UEM, UZ

Project Lead

Project lead


For more information on Phase 1 outputs please contact Udana Ariyawansa.