Factors influencing farmers' participation in operation and maintenance of smallholder irrigation projects in Gichugu Division, Kirinyaga East District, Kenya

Smallholder irrigation .development in Kenya has gained momentum over the last decade due to support from both the government and development partners. There has also been growing interest in this sector on the part of farmers due to sensitization by stakeholders on the need for intensification of agricultural production. However the major challenge has always been poor performance due to inadequate farmer participation, low level of government support services, weak Irrigation Water Users Associations (IWUAs) and inability of the beneficiaries to raise required funds. Farmers' participation in irrigation development and management has been studied by many researchers within the context of project development cycle because of the contribution of irrigation to food security and rural livelihoods. A target population comprising of 1052 irrigation farmers practicing irrigation within the set up of smallholder irrigation projects with functional WUAs was studied. The research design adopted was descriptive survey research. A sample size of 105 farmers from randomly sampled projects was drawn using cluster sampling technique. Data was collected using researcher administered questionnaires. The data was analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics according to the research questions and objectives of the study. The findings of this study will provide useful feedback to stakeholders in the irrigation sector so that appropriate polices and strategies can be formulated to ensure full participation of farmers in O&M. Irrigation extension workers will also be guided by the findings to plan field activities geared toward effective O&M. The people in the study area will also benefit from enhanced irrigation management and agricultural productivity resulting from implementation of the study'S recommendations. Majority of the respondents indicated that they often refer to the Irrigation Water Users Association by laws in their day to day irrigation activities. The study concluded that although farmers get water for irrigation on their farms, the water received is not adequate for the irrigation areas allowed and that majority do not get water for irrigation as scheduled especially the tail section members. It also concluded that extension services were inadequate. The study recommended that the farmers should be aware of important issues that arise in their daily irrigation farming activities and their responsibilities within the IWUA set up geared towards managing and improving the irrigation system. It also recommended further investigations in a number of areas for improvement of O&M.