Investing in irrigation is important to overcome poverty in rural areas in Mozambique. A reoccurring challenge of (large-scale) investments in irrigation schemes is that solutions are proposed upfront without the participation of the end-users and have a lack of flexibility. As a result, irrigation systems are not designed and constructed suitable for the local context. And when systems fail, the farmers get the blame for bad management.

In contrast, there is clear evidence that smallholder farmers have been developing and expanding irrigated areas through sustainable, locally-embedded and demand-driven initiatives. This process should be integrated in the formulation and construction of new irrigation systems.


The Messica Irrigation Pilot Project pilots an innovative institutional model to design and construct irrigation projects on a demand-driven, flexible-outcome and participatory approach: Participatory Irrigated Agricultural Development (PIAD). Resilience designed and implemented the intervention strategies, including execution and construction by training local staff in both the technical skills and the social interaction skills required for participatory design processes.

The PIAD approach can be found in the link, as well an academic paper analysis the approach and published in the Sustainable Irrigation and Drainage Special Issue.


The project shows that sustainable and pro-poor smallholder irrigation can be developed cost-effectively at a large scale. This methodology can be applied in multi-million dollar programmes that are funded by international organizations and implemented by commercial engineering firms. The approach has been adopted throughout Africa, for example in the design manual of gravity irrigation systems in Uganda. As such, it leads to increased food security throughout Africa.

Implemented in

Central Mozambique, Mozambique

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Contact person

Wouter Beekman


Farmer-led irrigation, Participatory Irrigation Agricultural Development, Design Approach, Sustainability, Central Mozambique