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ABSTRACT. With an estimated 70% of the 11.6 million Zimbabweans living in impoverished rural areas, and dependent on smallholder agriculture for their livelihoods, it follows that improvements in this sub-sector can contribute to poverty alleviation, particularly food insecurity. This depends on appropriate water management in such a semi-arid climate, making the case for appropriate legal regimes in the water sector self-evident. The paper analyses the constraints that are being encountered in this area by drawing some lessons from the colonial era. The colonial state was more successful because it provided the complementary resources for its white hydraulic mission. The failure of the post-colonial state to deliver a black hydraulic mission can be understood in the same terms – the failure to enunciate and pursue an economic ideology that provided for the development of sustainable smallholder agriculture. One of the main reasons was that the post-colonial state did not capitalize on indigenous and water management experiences, which was ironic given that the leaders professed indigenous roots. This is reflected by the absence of these important experiences in policy discourse. This has rendered the legal reforms in the water sector somewhat cosmetic.

EMMANUEL MANZUNGU
University of Zimbabwe
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ROSE MACHIRIDZA
University of Zimbabwe
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