Gamuchirai Chinamasa Herald Reporter
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board and Agribank have established a $1 million revolving fund for the development and installation of drip irrigation for small-scale tobacco growers.
TIMB sourced the loan from Agribank and it mainly targets A1, communal and old resettlement farmers.
The scheme is expected to initially benefit 300 farmers countrywide.
The farmers will pay back the loan over two farming seasons.
TIMB public relations and communications manager Mr Isheunesu Moyo confirmed the development in an interview with The Herald on Monday.
“Our partnership with Agribank will see plus or minus $1 million being extended to the smallholder farmers in terms of drip kits and rocket barns,” said Mr Moyo.
Over the two-year period, Agribank is charging a total interest of 10 percent, which is below the prevailing market.
“Constructing a rocket barn costs $1 500 apiece. The rocket barn as well as the drip kit cover a hectare of tobacco.”
Mr Moyo said TIMB would closely monitor the installation of the drip irrigation kits and construction of the rocket barns to guarantee success.
In this regard, he said, TIMB and its partners had trained more than 120 builders to help in the construction of the barns.
The drip kit allows the farmer to plant other crops other than tobacco.
“A combination of drip irrigation and the rocket barn will see an increase in quality of tobacco from third, fourth and fifth grade which dominate the market to first and second grades of tobacco,” said Mr Moyo.
TIMB chairperson Mrs Monica Chinamasa said the irrigation schemes would help farmers facing severe effects of the EL Nino-induced drought.
“In pursuit of adapting to climate change, TIMB and Agribank have established a revolving fund for the development and installation of drip irrigation for small-scale growers,” she said.
“The installation of drip irrigation system will also have a positive impact on food security besides improving tobacco productivity and quality.” Mrs Chinamasa urged farmers to adopt conservation farming techniques as this helps to reduce soil erosion and preservation moisture.
Mrs Chinamasa said the rocket barns are fuel efficient.
“As in the case with the scheme, yield is increased per hectare and quality is also increased which impact prices.”
“Interested tobacco growers can make inquiries at any of our TIMB offices or Agritex officers,” she said.
Agribank confirmed the scheme, but would not divulge more information referring all questions to the TIMB.