The University of Arizona

Successful small-scale irrigation or environmental destruction? The political ecology of competing claims on water in the Uluguru Mountains,Tanzania

Elizabeth Harrison, Anna Mdee


Abstract In the Uluguru Mountains of Tanzania, an expansion in informal hosepipe irrigation by small-scale farmers has enabled the development of horticulture, and resulted in improvements in farmers' livelihoods. This has largely taken place independently of external support, and can be seen as an example of the 'private' irrigation that is increasingly viewed as important for sub-Saharan Africa. However, these activities are seen by representatives of government and some donors as the cause of environmental degradation and water shortages downstream, especially in the nearby city of Morogoro. As a result, there have been attempts to evict the farmers from the mountain. Negative narratives persist and the farmers on the mountainside are portrayed as a problem to be 'solved.' This article explores these tensions, contributing to debates about the formalization of water management arrangements and the place of the state in regulating and adjudicating rights to access water. We argue that a focus on legality and formalization serves to obscure the political nature of competing claims on resources that the case illustrates. Keywords: irrigation; Tanzania; ethnography; political ecology; water

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