460 irrigation schemes set for maize Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka

Precious Manomano

Herald Reporter

A TOTAL of 460 irrigation schemes have been targeted for maize as efforts to improve agricultural production are escalated to mitigate the effects of climate change.

This season about 90 000 hectares of potential irrigable land have been identified for maize as the Government scales up efforts to boost food production in face of a predicted El Nino season.

Government is targeting to increase the area under irrigation from the current 193 000ha to 350 000ha by 2025 as the country seeks to boost food production.

The intention is to fight the effects of climate change although irrigation farming helps farmers in diversifying their farming operations thereby allowing them to grow crops all year round rather than engaging in seasonal productions.

Speaking during the incentive planning prices for strategic commodities for the 2023/24 season in Harare last week, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said the country is focusing on maximising irrigation so that it produces sufficient food for its people.

‘’We are also looking at identifying farmers with individual irrigation and all the irrigation schemes, the 460 of them, will be obliged to do some irrigated maize. We have identified 90 000ha of potential irrigation for maize this summer. We now have farmers in every ward and we will be assigning them to Agritex officers so that they come on board”.

The weather forecast for October, November and December for the northern parts of the country indicates normal to below normal rainfall. The Southern parts of the country encompassing Matabeleland North into Northern Midlands , and Matabeleland South will have below normal to normal rains.

The second half of the season is predicted to be normal to below normal for the whole country.

With this prediction, the Government has also put in place 17 additional measures to climate proof agriculture.

Dr Masuka said at household level, farmers should promote sustainable intensive conservation dubbed Pfumvudza-Intwasa adding that what is grown in a particular agro ecological zone is determined not by what a farmer wants but by the exigencies of that agro ecological region.

“You can’t grow maize in region 5 in a season predicted to be below normal so we want that agro ecological tailoring to be sharpened. GMB depots in the specific agro ecological regions will only receive crops that are suitable for those regions. We are engaging all the seed houses so that they don’t sell the wrong crops, wrong varieties in the wrong regions and there is much more that we are doing in terms of climate proofing,’’he said.

The roll out of dam construction countrywide will also boost agricultural production, provide potable water and install mini-hydro power projects as the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa seeks to revolutionise agriculture, especially for smallholder farmers.

Farmers said irrigation schemes are critical for small holder farmers to improve agricultural production adding that the Government’s move to introduce the system is greatly appreciated.

They also said irrigation schemes constructed so far have turned the areas into green belts.

One of the beneficiaries of Bubi-Lupane irrigation scheme, Mr Martin Hlongwane, said the scheme has helped to transform subsistence agriculture at household level into commercial agriculture as part of rural development and industrialisation in line with vision 2030.

He said following the revitalisation of the scheme in 2021, they have started reaping the rewards of their labour.

“We were unemployed as a family. We struggled to make ends meet until Government availed this opportunity for us. We are grateful as we can now afford to send our children to school,’’ he said. A Chinhoyi farmer Mr Larry Muenza said his crop which is under irrigation was doing well.

“We thank the Government for availing irrigation facilities. In the summer season we can continue with farming, we see the difference with those farmers without irrigation,” he said.

Mr Taurai Mangisi of Katawa in Raffingora said because of climate change, rainfall patterns were no longer predictable and it was risky to depend on rain-fed agriculture.

“Some of us have been on the land for many years and we cannot be spoon-fed all the time. We ask for loan facilities to get irrigation equipment and pay in instalments,” he said.

Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Trust Mrs Depinah Nkomo said most women farmers did not have irrigation facilities and urged the Government to invest in micro irrigation facilities.

“If every woman can have one hectare under irrigation, we will be able to boost production of earnings from agriculture. We have the land and zeal to farm, but lack of irrigation facilities is affecting us. With irrigation we can grow different types of crops throughout the year and increase profits,” she said.

In a recent interview, the Permanent Secretary for Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development, Dr John Basera, said there is a need to move more towards irrigation development as it is vital for ensuring food security.

“This Agric-Climate Proofing Programme entails massive country-wide water harnessing and irrigation programmes targeting to resuscitate and develop up to 350 000ha under functional irrigation by 2025 from about 150 000 ha in 2020.

“By 2022, the country recorded 193 000 ha under functional irrigation. This thrust will present great opportunities for climate change adaptation in the agriculture production space, thus giving us a chance to go for growth proper and at scale,’’ he said.

The Government created the Irrigation Development Alliance as a vigorous framework that seeks to promote investment in irrigation expansion by supporting partnerships between financial institutions, irrigation companies and farmers.

The programme is part of the Government’s efforts to create an enabling environment for accelerated growth through enhancing irrigation development’s viability and effectiveness to build the country’s resilience to vulnerabilities and shocks that come as a result of climate change.

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