The Sunday Mail
Sunday Mail Correspondent
MORE than 100 000 hectares will be put under irrigation this year, while 4 400 tractors will be imported and distributed to farmers under Government programmes meant to climate-proof agriculture and expedite farm mechanisation.
Presently, 190 000ha of agricultural land are irrigable against a target of 350 000ha.
This year’s target would mean 60 000ha would be outstanding and likely to be completed within set timelines.
The authorities believe putting 350 000ha under irrigation would guarantee production that is sufficient to achieve food security, particularly at a time when the effects of climate change have become pervasive.
Writing for The Sunday Mail this week, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Permanent Secretary Dr John Basera said Government’s interventions such as climate-proofing agriculture and accelerating mechanisation were driving the current expansion of the sector.
“The total functional irrigating area was over 193 000ha as at December 2022, up from 174 000ha in 2021. A total of over 19 000ha were being rehabilitated and developed in 2022. This was against a target of 9 000ha for the period under review,” he said.
“The ministry was allocated $9 billion against a bid of $21 billion in 2022, and hence facilitated the formation of the Irrigation Development Alliance (IDA), comprising all private sector stakeholders in the irrigation development sub-sector, to crowd in the private sector in the irrigation development and climate-proofing thrust.
“The target is to have at least 350 000ha by year 2025. So far, various proposals under the IDA amounting to 100 000ha have been consummated for implementation in 2023.”
Dr Basera said two major dam projects — Lake Gwayi Shangani and Chivhu Dam — will be commissioned this year, providing scope to even expand planned
irrigation development projects in surrounding communities.
“Chivhu Dam: The dam is now at 99,9 percent completion level, pending commissioning by His Excellency, the President, Dr E.D. Mnangagwa.
“A total of 120 hectares of irrigation have been developed,” he said.
Water conveyancing to Chivhu town, he added, was almost 80 percent complete.
“At Lake Gwayi-Shangani, major works are now complete, but, overall, the project is currently at 73 percent; that is to say, there are some outstanding works constituting the spillway, the 254km water conveyancing pipeline to Bulawayo, (and) irrigation infrastructure for the greenbelt along the pipeline are all underway.
“It is planned that the project will be commissioned by December, funds permitting.”
The Government is also trying to galvanise public and private sector participation in accelerating farm mechanisation.
“Under the Mechanisation Development Alliance, the ministry signed up mechanisation facilities worth over US$200 million, wherein Government will facilitate the importation of equipment from several sources for onward distribution to farmers by commercial banks.
“Over 4 400 tractors will be imported under these facilities,” added Dr Basera.
“All the mechanisation development programmes follow a model wherein they are Government facilitated and private sector-led to increase the levels of accountability.”
Last year, the Government distributed 1 641 units of farm equipment sourced through various facilities that include John Deere (209 units), local manufactures (243 units) and Belarus (1 189 tractors and combine harvesters).
Zimbabwe is on course to record yet another bumper harvest this season, said Dr Basera.
“This season, farmers are projected to produce over 3,2 million tonnes of cereals against a national annual requirement of 2,2 million tonnes.
“The nation was food secure in 2022 on account of 1 557 915 tonnes of maize, 194 100 tonnes of traditional grains and over 537 000 tonnes carried over in the Strategic Grain Reserve as at April 30, 2022.
“A total of 2 274 927 tonnes of cereals was available for 2022 against a national annual requirement of 2 200 000 tonnes, leaving a surplus of almost 100 000 tonnes.
“Generally, due to the religious implementation of the strategic programmes in the Agriculture Recovery and Growth Plan and other blueprints, the area under strategic crops increased by 8 percent to 3 674 149ha in 2022 from 3 387 038ha achieved in 2021.”
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe said interventions to modernise farm production were welcome.
“That is the route to go for smart agriculture,” said Dr Makombe.
“We needed to remechanise and with climate change, irrigation is going to be our mainstay.”