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Home > Basin > Limpopo > Integrated water resource management in the Limpopo Basin (PN17)

Full Project Title: The challenge of integrated water resource management for improved rural livelihoods: Managing risk, mitigating drought and improving water productivity in the water scarce Limpopo Basin (PN17)


Agricultural production in the Limpopo Basin is constrained by poor soil fertility, lack of access to water resources and low infrastructure development. Unreliable rainfall patterns and frequent droughts add to farmers’ risks in rain-fed farming

The objective was to contribute to improved rural livelihoods of poor smallholder farmers in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe through the development of an Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) framework for increased productive use of water flows and risk management for drought and dry-spell mitigation at all scales within the basin.

Research Highlights

Research highlights 

  • On-farm experimentation with double conventional ploughing combined with nitrogen fertilizer outperformed three other tillage systems, regardless of the rainfall pattern during the growing season. Supplementary irrigation improved yield about two-fold in areas and seasons where rainfall is poorly distributed and low. Labor demand and crop yields were major considerations by smallholder farmers when selecting a technology for adoption.
  • A model was developed for the assessment of the effects of smallholder farming system risk to climate and market shocks on farm gross margin and food security. The results inform smallholder farmers and policy makers on how to achieve food security and profitability through alternative farm enterprises and/or management strategies.
  • Evaluation of the crop-soil model APSIM showed that the model was able to simulate very closely the range of crop yields observed in the Limpopo Province, RSA, in terms of both total biomass and grain yield. The model provided estimates of water balance components in the field experiments, which allowed detailed comparison of water productivity in different crops.
  • The number of the Masters students graduating under the project exceeded the target, half of them being from SADC countries. 22 students published papers, articles or both, contributing to the project’s research Output and impact in the broader scientific community.
Project Outcomes

Project outcomes

  • Opportunities exist for upgrading rain-fed agriculture and ensuring food security in rural communities through timely and adequate supplementary irrigation. It is not recommendable to move to full irrigation as this would result in significant increases in agricultural water use in the catchment.
  • In the three countries, IWRM-informed water laws and policies have resulted in efforts directed at ensuring participation in decision-making and development. Devolution of power and authority to sub-national institutions is critical to ‘good water governance’. ‘Hybrid’ institutions that combine hydrological and administrative boundaries could be effective.
Publications and Outputs

To view all outputs from project PN17 visit our document repository.

Selected publications and outputs

  1. Kileshye Onema, J.-M., Mazvimavi, D., Love, D., Mul, M. 2006. Effects of dams on river flows of Insiza River, Zimbabwe. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 31, 870-875.
  2. Love, D., Twomlow, S., Mupangwa, W., van der Zaag, P. and Gumbo, B. 2006b. Implementing the millennium development food security goals – challenges of the southern African context. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, 31, 731-737.
  3. Love, D., Uhlenbrook, S., Twomlow, S. and van der Zaag, P. 2010. Changing hydroclimatic and discharge patterns in the northern Limpopo Basin, Zimbabwe. Water SA, 33.
  4. Maisiri, N., J. Rockström, A Senzanje, S Twomlow. September 2005. An on-farm evaluation of the effects of low cost drip irrigation on water and crop productivity, compared to conventional surface irrigation system, Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, 30, 783-791 doi:/10.1016/j.pce.2005.08.021
  5. Moyo, R., D Love, S Twomlow, W Mupangwa, M Mul. November 2006. Impact and sustainability of low-head drip irrigation kits, in the semi-arid Gwanda and Beitbridge Districts, Mzingwane Catchment, Limpopo Basin, Zimbabwe. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, 31, 885-892 doi:10.1016/j.pce.2006.08.020.
  6. Moyce, W., Mangeya, P., Owen, R and Love, D., 2006. Alluvial aquifers in the Mzingwane catchment: Their distribution, properties, current usage and potential expansion. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 31, 988–994.
  7. Mupangwa W., Twomlow S. and Walker S. 2008. The influence of conservation tillage methods on soil water regimes in semi-arid southern Zimbabwe. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 33, 762-767.
  8. Mupangwa, W., Twomlow, S., Walker, S. and Hove, L. 2007. Effect of minimum tillage and mulching on maize (Zea mays L.) yield and water content of clayey and sandy soils. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 32, 1127-1134.
  9. Mwenge Kahinda, J.-M., Rockstrom, J., Taigbenu, A.E. and Dimes, J. 2007. Rainwater harvesting to enhance water productivity of rainfed agriculture in the semi-arid Zimbabwe. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 32, 1068-1073.
  10. Nare, L., Love, D. and Hoko, Z. 2006. Involvement of stakeholders in the water quality monitoring and surveillance system: the case of Mzingwane Catchment. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, 31, 707-712.
Final Report
Project Partners

Project partners


Project Lead

Project lead


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