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Smallholder irrigation schemes potentially improve the livelihoods of rural communities in developing countries. However, they face challenges such as infrastructural decline, lack of funding, lack of markets, shortage of water, underutilization of land, and inefficient irrigation systems. In Zimbabwe, the government carried out rehabilitation programs to address these problems but the performance of smallholder irrigation schemes remained poor. These chronic challenges triggered experts to adopt a market systems approach (MSA) to revitalize failing irrigation schemes. Using primary and secondary data sources collected in 2015, this study used a “before” and “after” descriptive assessment approach to determine the effectiveness of the MSA at revitalizing smallholder irrigation schemes in Zimbabwe. We used Mutema Irrigation Scheme as a case study. Results suggest that the MSA leads to improved efficiency of irrigation infrastructure, farm gross margins, willingness to pay irrigation fees and farmers’ standard of living. While this research does not econometrically establish causation of relations between variables involved, our results provide a foundation for future research on the application of the MSA to revitalize underperforming smallholder irrigation schemes in developing countries.


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