|Farmers should prioritise water in budgets|
|Friday, 04 May 2012 00:00|
More often, when farmers plan, they have had a tendency to think of seed, fertilisers, labour and power, leaving out one of the most important inputs.
This is the input that has for long been neglected and is only considered important only when it is in short supply. This input is water.
Most farmers have always omitted water in their budgets, mainly due to the belief that the resource is always available and is a God- given one, which does not need to be paid.
This type of thinking is not exclusive to the farming community alone, but is also common in most people. This thinking has led to the relegation of water issues to the periphery, only for them to gin prominence when the resource is in short supply.
So as this season takes its toll, farmers need to be reminded that water is not only a social good, but an economic one, which needs to be treated so highly and sensitively.
It is also a very strategic resource that needs to be properly planned and administered as it is a potential source of conflict. It also the major determinant of how much land can be put under crop.
A farmer may have all the fertilisers, all the labour and all the financial requirements, but without water, all his efforts will come to waste. It is only water, which can determine how much crop can be planted.
In Zimbabwe, the Water Act takes cognisance of all these issues, especially the conflicts that might arise in the event of water shortages.
The Act, together with the Zinwa Act, places the role of water affairs administration on the hands of the Zimbabwe National Water Authority. The Act also covers a broad spectrum of issues and also emphasises on the need to pay for water.
The Act states that any person using raw water for commercial purposes, should be registered and issued with a permit and should pay for such water.
This includes people using water from rivers, dams any other sources. These people should apply for permits at their nearest Zinwa offices. The acquisition of a water permit will therefore ensure that the farmers get their appropriate allocation of the water available in their areas.
It will be very unfortunate to see farmers putting vast tracts of land under crop, only for that crop to wilt and die due to lack of water.
The acquisition of water permits will, in essence help Zinwa to plan the available water resources as well as knowing areas of water use deficit. It will also help the authority to know the country’s water users plan accordingly for the future.
It therefore becomes very compelling for farmers to start registering their water use while those already using the water illegally, can approach the authority to regularise such use.
The requirement to register is not only administrative, but legal as well, since the Water Act, as aforementioned, makes it an offence for any person to use water for purposes other than primary purposes, without a water permit.
Only those using water for primary purposes, thus those who use water to sustain life through domestic uses such as drinking, laundry, watering a small garden and livestock, are exempted from paying for the resource. All those using water for purposes outside that scope should therefore pay for it.
A lot of people have always questioned why water, a God-given resource, should be paid for. The reasons are simple. A lot of effort and financial resources are needed to ensure the effective management of water in Zimbabwe.
The water authority needs money to develop new water infrastructure, to maintain the existing water infrastructure such as dams, weirs, canals and gauging stations. It also needs to employ people to this and other operations such as river inspections and hydrological surveys.
All these operations and equipment require vast amounts of money to be sustained.
Some of the farmers enjoy all-year round flows in their areas and these flows could be a result of a dam upstream, which stores water for areas downstream and releases during winter. These are facts that most people do not know or at times choose to ignore.
In recent times, Zinwa has been called time and again to mediate and resolve conflicts among water users, especially on newly resettled farms.
While most of these conflicts have been a result of lack of knowledge of the Water Act, which vests all water in the President, the other major cause of them has been the non-registration of water users. This usually results in chaos as water users would be scrambling for the little water in their vicinity to save their crops from wilting.
So as we approach this winter cropping period, it is the time when, as farmers, we should try to rethink our positions on water and make it a priority in our budgets.
It is the time to take stock and relook at water as an economic good which needs to be treated as such and needs to be paid for, if we are to get water for tomorrow and future generations.