‘Milking the Cow Without Feeding It’: Perceptions of Communities on Water-user Fees for Smallholder Irrigation in Ruaha Sub-Basin, Tanzania

Joseph Kahimba, Stephen Maluka, Esther Dungumaro


Abstract Water-user fees in Tanzania, like in other low-income countries, have been introduced mainly as a response to neo-liberal thinking which, among other things, believes that water has an economic value and should be recognized as an economic good. The objective of this study was to understand perceptions on water-user fees among smallholder farmers in the Ruaha Sub-basin, Tanzania. It employed qualitative and quantitative tools, including in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and questionnaires. Qualitative data were analysed using a thematic approach, while quantitative data were analysed using SPSS Version 20. The findings revealed that mostsmallholder irrigators were dissatisfied with the payment, amount, and the use of water fees. There were three major reasons for the high level of dissatisfaction. First, owners of private water-use permits did not see why they should pay for water that had no (physical) investment on it. Second, some owners of group water-use permits were unwilling to pay for water because they felt that they did not get adequate support from the government since all irrigation water-related operational costs, including the constructions and maintenance of irrigation canals, were undertaken by themselves. The lack of community participation in determining the amount of water-user fees and ad-hoc changes of the amount of the fees was another reason for the dissatisfaction. This paper proposes some recommendations for effective management of water resources at a community level


water-user fees, water resources, smallholder irrigators, Ruaha sub-basin, Tanzania

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