Planting basins and ripper tillage practices are major components of the recently introduced conservation agriculture package that is being extensively promoted for smallholder farming in Zimbabwe. Besides preparing land for crop planting, these two technologies also help in collecting and using rainwater more efficiently in semi-arid areas. The basin tillage is being targeted for households with limited or no access to draught animals while ripping is meant for smallholder farmers with some draught animal power. Trials were established at four farms in Gwanda and Insiza in southern Zimbabwe to determine soil water contributions and runoff water losses from plots under four different tillage treatments. The tillage treatments were hand-dug planting basins, ripping, conventional spring and double ploughing using animal-drawn implements. The initial intention was to measure soil water changes and runoff losses from cropped plots under the four tillage practices. However, due to total crop failure, only soil water and runoff were measured from bare plots between December 2006 and April 2007. Runoff losses were highest under conventional ploughing. Planting basins retained most of the rainwater that fell during each rainfall event. The amount of rainfall received at each farm significantly influenced the volume of runoff water measured. Runoff water volume increased with increase in the amount of rainfall received at each farm. Soil water content was consistently higher under basin tillage than the other three tillage treatments. Significant differences in soil water content were observed across the farms according to soil types from sand to loamy sand. The basin tillage method gives a better control of water losses from the farmers’ fields. The planting basin tillage method has a greater potential for providing soil water to crops than ripper, double and single conventional ploughing practices.