The government of Swaziland has fully recognized the role of smallholder irrigation development in poverty reduction hence intensive investments have been made to empower rural smallholder farmers through irrigation. The Lower Usuthu Irrigation Project (LUSIP) is one of the projects which strive to empower 2600 rural poor households to attain an improved quality of life and be able to sustain it. The study sought to interrogate the development model used at LUSIP and determine whether it guarantees sustainability of the development as well as to inform policy makers on the social and economic issues associated with the project. This was a case study using a qualitative research design where a purposive sample of the total operational farmers companies was selected for interviews. It can be concluded that the smallholder development under LUSIP has a potential to contribute to the overall agricultural contribution to the Swazi economy. The study unfolded issues around the farmer companies remaining in business and not being properly corporatized as well as uncertainty surrounding the land ownership and user rights though. Three broad recommendations include; corporatization of the farmer companies in a true sense, reviewing the participation-for-all model that is currently being used and the finalization of the National Land Policy by the government.
Key words: Sustainable agriculture, smallholder irrigation, productivity, poverty reduction.
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