Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
GOVERNMENT will beginning next farming season provide farmers living near water sources with irrigation equipment, implements and inputs as it takes practical steps towards ensuring national food security.
The thrust is on empowering farmers to overcome the adverse effects of the low and erratic rainfall, mid season droughts, extending the growing seasons and to unlock the value of both crops and livestock.
Addressing the Joint Command Staff Number 29 students at the Zimbabwe Staff College yesterday, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister, Dr Joseph Made said farmers would be supplied with new pumps, centre pivots, hose reels, drip and mini sprinkler irrigation systems.
Government would also rehabilitate and replace old pumps, broken piping systems, reconnect electricity and introduce renewable low costs energy sources to improve reliability of irrigation systems in all existing dams and major rivers.
“Irrigation development is a key component of the Zim-Asset and the 10 point plan.
Government has taken a strategic decision not only to ensure production of raw materials for the manufacturing industry, but also to ensure household and national food security.
“The irrigation equipment will enable farmers to produce crops throughout the year with other areas producing maize twice a year. In the Lowveld, farmers will be able to produce maize two and half times per year. All farmers will benefit whether one is from the A1 or A2 sector as long as they are nearer water sources.
The equipment would not be given for free, but as a loan,” he said.
Dr Made said irrigation development had been hampered by challenges like high operational costs, poor servicing and repair of old pumping units and piping systems that forced many schemes into disuse.
He said inadequate farm irrigation funding had resulted in low farm irrigation infrastructure development with only 50 percent of the existing dams serving farming communities for irrigation purposes.
Government is promoting mechanisation through supply of more affordable and appropriate farming machinery and equipment including tractors, ploughs, disc harrows, fertiliser spreaders and knapsack sprayers as well as establishing repair and servicing centres.
The medium to long term farm infrastructure capacity building strategies will be focusing on fencing, farm storage curing and livestock handling, among others.
Government has declared 2015 /16 a drought season.
The crop and livestock assessment is underway and is expected to reveal levels of immediate food assistance and livestock feed mitigation measures for every district, reinforce short term measures to secure additional grain in response to demand for more food until the next harvest, and take appropriate measures to mitigate the adverse effects of global warming.
“We have had rains in the past few days, but they may not be of any use to crops in most areas, but are important in terms of water for irrigation and pastures.
“The distribution of the rains this season has been very poor and this is across the SADC region,” said Dr Made.