Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project - Phase I
The project area is one of the poorest in the country. The climate is semi-arid, droughts are frequent and crop yields are unreliable. Most households in the area have access to less than 2 ha of land and can barely grow enough to feed themselves. Households rely heavily on remittances. For people in the area security of land tenure and access to water for irrigation are key means to improving rural livelihoods and reducing poverty.
The long-term objective of the project is to create favourable conditions so that farmers in the lower Usuthu basin will be able to commercialize their activities and develop sustainable, high-value crop production. The project is investing in a large-scale irrigation system for the area. Three dams are being constructed to form a reservoir to store water diverted from wet season flood flows in the Lower Usuthu River. The first phase involves construction of the main infrastructure and development of an irrigation system spanning more than 6,500 ha. A second phase will extend the irrigation system and develop a further 5,000 ha. The project works to ensure that the design of the irrigation system — a complex network of dams, water reservoirs and canals — is adequately meeting the demand for water and that it responds to the needs of farmers in a cost-efficient way.