The most distinguishing feature between developed and developing countries is the relative poverty rates. Poverty scourge undermines lives of many in developing countries including Swaziland (63%). The general belief is that irrigated agriculture limits crops failure, external shocks hence Swaziland has seen development of new and rehabilitation of existing Smallholder irrigation schemes (SHIS). The Poverty Reduction Strategic and Action Programme (PRSAP) advocates for the development of smallholder irrigation schemes towards achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDG 1). This study examined whether smallholder irrigation schemes had a significant impact on poverty reduction in Swaziland using Ntfonjeni and Ngwempisi Rural Development Areas (RDA) as a case study and two irrigation schemes were selected in each RDA. The study used the “with and without approach” and was based on empirical evidence from a representation of 190 households which were randomly selected from four enumeration areas located in the four irrigation schemes. Data were collected using questionnaires. Analysis involved poverty measures for members’ versus non members, socioeconomic demographics, factors influencing household decision to participate in irrigation schemes was determined using a logit model while average treatment effects using propensity score matching was used to assess the impact of smallholder irrigation schemes on poverty reduction. The study revealed that the members in Ngwempisi had significantly low poverty incidence as compared to non members of 58% versus 79%, whilst the poverty gap was 6% for members versus 17% for non members. In Ntfonjeni 53% members were poor and 83% of non members were poor. The poverty gap was 8% for members versus 34% for non members. The empirical results revealed access to credit positively influenced participation in irrigation scheme by 26% and other significant variables were age, farm size, occupation, distance to the irrigation scheme and other group membership. Finally access to the irrigation scheme had a positive impact to the households consumption and expenditure level. The Average Treatment effect of Treated (ATT) indicated that, consumption expenditure of irrigation members was 21% more than non members of irrigation showing a positive impact in poverty reduction of households. Hence the government can invest more on smallholder irrigation schemes as one of the poverty reduction tools, which should be complemented with an agrarian reform involving all the stakeholders to ensure efficiency in that value chain.

Background information 
The most distinguishing feature between developed and developing countries is the relative poverty rates (Mwabumba, 2013). Poverty rates in developing countries are relatively higher than those in the developed countries. Millions of Africans are born, live and die poor, hungry and malnourished. Most of these unfortunate people live in rural areas and directly or indirectly depend for a large part of their livelihoods on agriculture (Kirsten et al., 2009). The role of agriculture has not been ignored by policy makers across Africa but has consistently recognized its importance to the poor of the continent and has stressed the significance of agriculture to African economies and people (ibid). Despite all these efforts, poverty prevalence in the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) still remains deep, pervasive and intractable. 

In most African economies, the contribution of agriculture to GDP is significant and directly provides about 70% of employment along with related services. Many countries in the continent have embarked on different structural changes to fight against poverty through investing in agriculture. Some key investments have been geared to the agricultural sector to increase productivity as well as diversify production as part of achieving Millennium development goal one. African agriculture is predominantly rainfed and the changing weather conditions would further exacerbate the poverty situation (Todaro, 2012). It has been argued that one strategy which would be used to mitigate water scarcity is irrigation. Indeed Pinstrup (2011) and (Hussain, 2004), revealed that investing in smallholder irrigation schemes is one of the best strategies to reduce poverty levels given that majority of the population is found in rural areas and derive about 70% of their livelihood from agriculture. 

Since irrigation has limitations in terms of cost, the use of collective action by farmers in smallholder irrigation schemes is one of the key strategies that can be used to enhance utilization especially in developing countries. Delgado (1998) argued that smallholder irrigation schemes in southern Africa cannot be ignored or treated as a small sector of the market economy because they are important for resource and human employment. It has also been observed that, higher incidences of poverty are associated with the places where there is low agricultural productivity (Pinstrup, 2011). In the Republic of South Africa, for instance, smallholder irrigation schemes have induced a positive impact in increasing crop production, higher yields and lower crop failure (Anne, 1997). An increase in production makes food available and affordable for the poor. Irrigation investment acts as production and supply shifters and has a positive impact on economic growth, benefiting the poor in the long run. Hussain and Hanjra (2004) extensive review suggested that there were strong linkages between irrigation and poverty. These linkages are both direct and indirect. Hence it is in the agricultural sector that the battle for long term economic development will be won or lost (Gunnar, 2009). The main burden of development and employment creation will have to be borne by the part of the economy in which agriculture is the predominant activity, which is the rural sector (Francis, 1993). 

In the kingdom of Swaziland, agriculture is mainly rain fed and forms the backbone of economic activity as well as playing a crucial role in economic development by providing food, raw materials and employment to a large proportion of the population. With its present contribution to GDP at 9%, the sector employs 29% of the total labor force (FAO, 2010). However its growth over the past eight years has stagnated with an increase in food insecurity and perpetuating poverty levels in rural areas. As a result the country is a net food importer for maize and vegetables from South Africa (FAO, 2012). 

This situation has made the government to invest in the agricultural sector, specifically by improving technologies farmers use in production through irrigation. Irrigation schemes are becoming dominant throughout the country and efforts are made with the help of foreign donors and NGO’s to rehabilitate existing and construct new irrigation schemes and dams. Current total irrigated land in the country is 54 933 ha, with sugar cane, which is the main cash crop sector occupying 50 000 ha, while smallholder irrigation schemes cover an area of more than 5000 ha (MOA, 2013). These sugar cane schemes are located in the low-veld region and mostly owned by estate companies. In the other parts of the country, the smallholder schemes grow mainly vegetables which add to the consumption basket of the farmers and income through surplus output sold locally. One of the major enterprises in these schemes which earns income is baby vegetables (vegetables harvested when still tender) which are exported to South Africa and European countries through the National Agricultural Marketing Board (NAMBoard). 

The current household poverty level in Swaziland is estimated at 63%. Poverty can be measured at country level, household level and individual level; however most studies focus at household level World Bank (yearly reports), Hussian (2004) and Munir (2004). In Swaziland, the term poverty is used to define the people without adequate income to buy the minimum amount of food necessary to sustain active life (set as 2100 kilocalories per person per day), and to acquire the non-food requirements for a decent living. This is referred to as income poverty (Swaziland Household Income Expenditure Survey, SHIES, 2011). 

Poverty has many dimensions; it is characterized by low income and expenditure, but also by malnutrition, ill health, illiteracy, and insecurity. There could be also a sense of powerlessness and exclusion (SHIES, 2011). These different aspects often interact and combine to keep households, and at times whole communities, in persistent poverty. 

The Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Program for Swaziland (PRSAP, 2006), has reflected that rain fed agriculture limits the extent to which production can increase and highly recommended the Government to continue in investment of more irrigation schemes in the kingdom. Whilst the Draft National Irrigation Policy (DNIP, 2005), has put a main emphasis that water can play an important role towards poverty reduction in Swaziland, it further declares water as a national resource that has to be developed and used for national benefit especially in poverty reduction projects and programs. With the experience of Asia, many SSA countries realized that investment in irrigation infrastructure could be an important poverty reduction policy, which can boost agricultural productivity and also reduce risks associated with rainfall variability, which forms the basis for this study using Swaziland as a case study. 

Statement of the problem 
The current focus on smallholder irrigation schemes in Swaziland has seen the establishment and rehabilitation of major vegetable growing irrigation schemes including Mphatheni, Mtsambama, Ekuvinjelweni, Mswati, Maplotini Emavulandlela, Ntamakuphila, Mkhovu, Mancubeni and Nkwene. The schemes benefitted in large part from persistent donor funding over a period of more than five years. Though large numbers of households have been enrolled and allocated land in these schemes it has not been established, however, whether the influx has achieved the intended aim of reducing poverty. It has not been established whether enrolled households have experienced improved incomes. Further, there is no evidence to prove whether the socioeconomic status of the enrolled households have improved when compared to the non-members. 

This study focused on irrigation schemes that have been working for more than five consecutive years to determine if indeed smallholder irrigation schemes have a role to play towards poverty reduction in Swaziland. In particular it examines the role of irrigation in addressing consumption, expenditure, and income of smallholder rural farming households. 
Objectives of the study 

General objective 
To contribute towards improved poverty reduction policies for rural smallholder farmers in Swaziland. 

Specific Objectives 
Specifically the study aimed: 
i. To determine the current household poverty levels between the members and non- members of small holder irrigation schemes. 
ii. To compare the socioeconomic dimensions of members and non-members of the smallholder irrigation schemes. 
iii. To determine the factors that influence a farmer to participate in the irrigation scheme 
iv. To assess the impact of smallholder irrigation scheme on poverty reduction. 

Research hypotheses 
i. The poverty levels of members of irrigation scheme are not statistically different from that of non- members of the smallholder irrigation schemes. 
ii. There seems to be no significant difference in the socioeconomic dimensions of the members when compared to the non-members. 
iii. There is no significant difference in factors that influence farmers’ participation in irrigation schemes. 
iv. Participation in irrigation scheme has got no significant impact in poverty reduction. 

Justification of the study 
Investing in smallholder irrigation schemes is one of the main strategies that the country is using to reduce the poverty levels. As a result the long term development in agriculture in Swaziland is based on realizing the potential of smallholder agriculture by raising productivity and incomes. This is the most direct route towards achieving agricultural growth, improving food security and poverty reduction. Considering the effort that the government is putting in improving and expanding irrigation schemes, there is a need for a study to evaluate the effect of smallholder irrigation schemes on poverty reduction. The study is expected to provide empirical evidence towards the contribution of access to irrigation water and ultimately towards the standard of living of smallholder farmers. Related studies that are specific to Swaziland are relatively scarce and those that have been done focus mainly on food security and as a consequence, conclusions are often drawn on the basis of quite limited evidence. 

Findings from this study will contribute towards the development of short and long-term, policy interventions aimed at fostering poverty reduction and reduction in the country. It will also add literature on the analysis of irrigation and poverty linkages specifically for small holder farmers. 

Scope and limitation of the study 
The study focused on schemes involved in vegetable production because these are enterprises which are considered to be of high value and would have a greater impact on incomes for smallholder farmers. Cross sectional data was mainly used because primary data using recall was not appropriate given the long period. However, it is also important to mention that poverty is quite diverse and broad; this study only focused on consumption, expenditure, assets and sanitation thus not all the aspects of poverty were explored given the limited time and resources which were scheduled for this study. 

Operational definitions of terms 
Smallholder farmer: they are sometimes called peasant or resource challenged farmers who own less than 2 ha of land with and without access to irrigation water and with limited capital investments. Farmers rely mainly on family labour for production which is both for subsistence and commercial purposes. 

Poverty: The poor in Swaziland are those people without adequate income to buy the minimum amount of food (set as 2100 kilocalories/person/day), necessary to sustain a normal and active life and to acquire basic non-food requirements for a decent living (PRSAP,2006). 

Irrigation: Watering crops using water from a dam or river as means of improving crop productivity and reducing drought shocks.

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Item Type: Kenyan Topic  |  Size: 52 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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