The research on which this paper is based was conducted in Geita District, Tanzania, to assess the nature of community participation in irrigation projects in three villages (Nzera, Lwenge and Nyamalulu) to find out whether community participation used in the projects was likely to lead to their long term sustainability. A cross-sectional research design was adopted in which a combination of purposive and simple random sampling techniques was employed to select a sample of 120 respondents. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected through questionnaire survey, key informant interviews and Focus Group Discussions. Quantitative data were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) to compute descriptive statistics and do inferential analysis while qualitative data were analysed using content analysis. The results showed that community participation in the projects was inadequate to lead to their long term sustainability due to low (< 50% except in terms of contribution of resources) participation in all implementation stages. The understanding of community participation among the beneficiaries was limited (<50%) in all aspects. Women participation was limited (37.5%). Hence community participation was used more as a means than an end. Therefore, it is argued that community participation needs to be enhanced in order to improve sustainability of irrigation projects. Hence, it is recommended that that there should be concerted efforts to sensitise and mobilise the community members to participate effectively in all aspects of the projects from problem identification to implementation.
Key words: Community participation, participatory approaches, community empowerment, project sustainability.
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