Exploring the Head Versus Tail-End Dichotomy on Yield and Farm Incomes in Smallholder Irrigation Schemes in Tanzania

Ana Manero*, Sarah Ann Wheeler, Alec Zuo, Makarius Mdemu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Variations in water supply and their impact on farm production in smallholder irrigation schemes are often associated with the location of irrigators at either the head or tail-end, with tail-enders usually considered to be at a severe disadvantage. However, it is rare that the impact of multidimensional proxies of water (capturing adequacy, timing, and location) on farm production and income have been evaluated in conjunction with other relevant variables. Using GIS analysis, this study combines irrigation household surveys, irrigation area characteristics, and cadastral data from two smallholder irrigation schemes in southern Tanzania. The results indicate that location at both the head-end and tail-end had a negative significant impact on farm yields, but not farm incomes. Also, being further downstream the secondary canals (but not necessarily away from the system's intake) had a significant negative effect on both yields and incomes. Surprisingly, increased tomato production drove a decline in incomes, thus raising the importance of crop selection and productivity barriers linked to markets and knowledge. In absence of actual quantitative measures of water supply, this study concludes that using a multidimensional water proxy can uncover important effects that would otherwise remain overlooked by the widespread head versus tail-end dichotomy, commonly used in the study of water distribution within smallholder irrigation systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4322-4342
Number of pages21
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes


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