IDSP’s approach is based on a transparent and participatory decision-making process whereby entire communities needed to become informed partners in a process that involves the (re-)allocation of land and water resources under a partnership arrangement between the Government, private operators and communities.
Studies which were carried out during project preparation envisaged three types of irrigated plots (a three-tier system) that can be combined within each scheme, depending on site-specific conditions: (i) Tier 1: small individually farmed plots with a maximum size of 1 ha, using flood or furrow irrigation; (ii) Tier 2: slightly larger plots belonging to individual farmers or small groups of neighbouring farmers, with a size of 1 to 5 ha using sprinkler irrigation systems or other appropriate technology and farmed under the guidance of the scheme professional operator; and (iii) Tier 3: large plots of at least 60 ha, owned by the community or cooperative, using centre pivots or other types of modern irrigation and farmed by a professional operator. While smallholder farmers would directly crop their plots on Tiers 1 & 2, the income generated on Tier 3 would be shared between the professional operator and the community.
Land tenure and income sharing arrangements will be agreed upon by the community as a pre-requisite to the investment, knowing that land leases of sufficient duration will need to be secured by Tiers 2 and 3 farmers investing in irrigation and productive equipment. In addition, large scale commercial farmers in some sites (Mwomboshi) would be able to develop irrigated agriculture independently (i.e., on their own land, adjacent but outside the smallholder scheme) by purchasing water from the bulk water storage facilities. This would be the fourth Tier.
An Irrigation Management Model for IDSP is being designed that will ensure economic, social and environmental sustainability while addressing the interests of stakeholders. The Government of Zambia finances the irrigation infrastructure and enters into a concession agreement with a private agent for one or more schemes. The private agent will serve as a water utility company providing water to individual farmers (tier 3 and 4) and groups of water users (tier 1 and 2) in the scheme, who in return pay fees for the services and water received. The tariff structure will be regulated by the government and ultimately determined by the operation and maintenance cost of the schemes. The management arrangement will be put in place following the bidding process, during the completion of site construction. The bidding process will start in January 2021 and is scheduled to be completed by October 2021.