This study aimed to analyse the extent to which land- and water-use rights enable/deter the productive use of irrigation water. Data was collected from 242 sampled smallholders in three study areas in KwaZulu-Natal. The findings indicate that the productive use of irrigation water is positively influenced by land- and water-use rights, with scheme committees being the first point of contact for smallholders when they need access to land and water. A provincial body of scheme committees is needed through which smallholders can capacitate each other in how they can improve access, appreciate the role of collective action and deal with challenges related to water, land and markets by applying their experiences. This body can be represented in policy formulation and aid in policy implementation. This paper shows that land and water policy alone cannot improve smallholder productivity, and that enhancing the productive use of irrigation water requires a holistic approach that considers the accessibility of input and output markets.