Massive irrigation plan to keep hunger at bay

Livingstone Marufu
Government will in 2017 install irrigation equipment worth US$25 million in small-holder areas countrywide to increase farm productivity and mitigate against drought.

Also in the works is a plan to secure additional agro-equipment under Brazil’s More Food for Africa Programme whose first phase lapsed in December 2016.

Both initiatives stem from Government’s agragrian reform strategy which builds on land reforms and aims to catapult domestic agriculture to greater heights via mechanisation and other modern farming methods.

Though Zimbabwe has invariably performed remarkably well in agriculture sub-sectors like tobacco, the broader sector has suffered from recurrent climate change-induced droughts.

As such, authorities reason that expanding irrigation and beefing up small-holder irrigation schemes will spur all-year-round farm production.

In his 2017 National Budget Statement, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said, “A key component of our agrarian reform strategy is the need for investments in irrigation infrastructure, which reduce the uncertainties farmers face from dependence on rain-fed agriculture, assuring them of uninterrupted production of crops throughout the year.

“To take advantage of existing water bodies, the 2017 Budget proposes to mobilise US$24,8 million for irrigation, prioritising rehabilitation and construction at small-holder irrigation schemes.”

He continued: “The irrigation schemes where works are targeted from 2017 are the following: 800 irrigable hectares at 11 irrigation schemes, allocated US$4,9 million from the fiscus;

“Small-holder irrigation schemes in Manicaland and Matabeleland South, supported by US$1,7 million funding under the (European Union) Small-holder Irrigation Support Programme;

“545 hectares for rehabilitation of small-holder schemes in Bikita, Gutu, Masvingo, and Zaka at a cost of US$1,5 million with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development Corporation.

“Irrigable land for 15 000 households as well as adjacent rain-fed land for 12 500 households in Manicaland, Masvingo, the Midlands and Matabeleland South funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to the tune of US$4 million; 674 hectares at Nyakomba.”

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister Davis Marapira told The Sunday Mail, “Government continues to promote agricultural mechanisation as an essential strategy for modernising agriculture and increasing productivity.

“Already, the distribution of equipment under Phase I of the More Food Africa International Programme, valued at US$38,7 million, has been completed and is benefiting A1 and communal irrigation schemes throughout the country.

“Further disbursements under the facility are conditional upon utilisation and repayments by benefiting farmers.

‘‘Currently, benefiting farmers are making loan repayments according to schedule, and this is facilitating negotiations for Phase II of the programme, valued at US$30 million. Equipment under Phase II is earmarked for delivery in 2017 and will further benefit A1 and communal irrigation farmers.”

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa chipped in: “We are very happy that the Government is making such an effort (to distribute irrigation equipment) to complement the Brazil More Food for Africa Programme to help farmers move out of rain-fed agriculture to the irrigation type of agriculture, which guarantees productivity throughout the calendar year.

“We have recorded successes in a number of areas and hope to continue doing that. We encourage our farmers to take advantage of the rains to harvest water (for irrigation).”

Some irrigation projects, incepted a few months ago under the More Food for Africa Programme, are now complete, with growers expecting bumper harvests.

These include Cashel, Chabwino and Chesa-Mutondwe.

Chesa-Mutondwe Irrigation Scheme is in drought-prone Mount Darwin, and stands out as a good example of the benefits this programme has brought to Zimbabwe.

Fifty families and four schools are operating on the 25-hectare farm, each expecting to harvest three tonnes of maize — enough to last them the next 12 months and to sell.

Zimbabwe was the first African country to secure the Brazil facility, which provides long-term financing at an interest rate of 2 percent per annum and a grace period of three years.

The borrowed sum is payable over 15 years.

The loan, which is guaranteed by the Government of Zimbabwe, has benefited communal farmer groups, old resettlement schemes and A1 farmers.

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