Irrigation package for sand rivers, a feasibility study in the Mozambican Limpopo Delta

In southern Mozambique harvest failure due to increasing droughts is common. Rain-fed food production is limited to one crop a year and poses high risks for local food security. Irrigation could potentially reduce risks and increase income for smallholder farmers as it enables off-season production and supplementing water when rainfall is insufficient. Groundwater for irrigation is available in the riverbed of sand rivers like the Limpopo. However, most farmers cannot access the water; and those who do rely on diesel pumps that are frequently abandoned due to a lack of organisation or maintenance.

This project looks at the feasibility of introducing individual solar-powered irrigation packages tapping from the invisible water resources in the dry riverbed. Participatory action research with farmers, NGOs and local and international research institutes is used to find answers to the barriers that separate farmers from year-round water supply and increased food security.


  • Discover the conditions that make a productive and accessible irrigation package for smallholder farmers in sand rivers.


  • Validate the technical specifications of the ‘irrigation package for sand rivers’ in light of the socio-economic and biophysical context through technical assessments and installation of the package at three experimental sites
  • Assess the costs, benefits, and impact of the technique (incl. volumes of water, crop types, added value of irrigation, also in monetary terms)
  • Investigate the needs of the potential users to manage the more intensive irrigation system
  • Investigate the feasibility of the proposed financing mechanisms, including how they can best be tailored to small-scale farmers and the institutional embedding required
  • Map the upscaling potential of the package in Mozambique and other Arid and Semi-arid Lands considering hydrogeological, socio-economic, and institutional parameters, and develop the upscaling plan for the near future in collaboration with donors and financiers


Total project budget is €250,000 of which €62,000 RVO subsidy for PRACTICA, part of the Partners for Water Programme.