The role of resource use optimization in improving farm incomes in small-scale irrigation schemes: a case study of Mitunguu irrigation project in Meru district, Kenya.

This research was carried out in Mitunguu Irrigation Project which is an organised Smallscale Public Irrigation Scheme.Mitunguu Irrigation Project covers 400 Ha of gravity fed sprinkler irrigation. The project has a potential of upto 1500 Ha of irrigable land. Each farm within the project is provided with a hydrant box so that the irrigation water in each farm is opened only when irrigation needs arise. Fanners with land holdings larger than 2 Ha are supplied with irrigation water sufficient to irrigate 2 Ha only. Those with land holdings of less than 2 Ha. are supplied with water sufficient to irriga,te 70 percent of the holding. Based on which cash crop is grown on each farm, three farming systems are identified in the project: - Tobacco with subsistence crops - Cotton with subsistence crops - Subsistence crops with no cash crops. The main subsistence crops are maize and beans. Farm incomes per unit area, in the project are low compared to the average of Meru District.Improvements of farm incomes would contribute to alleviation of rural poverty in the project area. A previous study revealed that farm resources mainly land and water were underutilized. There is a possibility that there is allocative inefficiency in the use of farm resources in the project. The hypothesis that the three existing farming systems in Mitunguu Irrigation project operate suboptimally was advanced for testing. The hypothesis was tested using a linear programming technique. From the analysis, the hypothesis could not be rejected in respect to each farming system. The study revealed that the difference in income generated from the existing farm plan and the optimal farm plan were 51, 34 and 21 percent of the incomes from existing farm plans for cotton, tobacco and subsistence farms respectively. The irrigable land was found to be a binding resource while the water for irrigation was found to be slack throughout the year. The irrigation system has a 40, 27 and 25 percent idle capacity in cotton, subsistence and tobacco farms. Labour was found to be a constraint during planting, weeding and harvesting periods. From the study, the following recommendations were made: -, 1. The irrigated land should be expanded because the available irrigation water is a slack resource throughout the year. 2. Farm management extension officers should draw simple farm plans which could be used to guide farmers to improve their farm incomes by changing from existing to optimal farm plans. 3. Farmers should be advised to use herbicides to easen labour demands during weeding periods. 4. The subsistence farmers should adopt at least one of the cash crops (cotton or tobacco).