9 Beitbridge irrigation schemes get solar power
Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
The Government in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has helped to build the operational capacity at nine irrigation schemes in the Beitbridge district.
This was done under a three-year Zimbabwe Resilience Programme (ZRP) that ran between 2017 and 2020.
Before then most of the benefiting irrigation projects were fast grinding to a halt due to a litany of challenges, among them power outages.
Under the initiative, the UNDP availed US$5,3 million for the initiative which also covers non-forestry timber projects in Nyanga.
The project is being implemented through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Development under the (PROGRESS) consortium led by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
Other members of the consortium include Cesvi, Matopo Research Centre and Biohub.
Cesvi’s area coordinator for Beitbridge, Mr Munyaradzi Katemaudzanga, said although the rehabilitation project was expected to have ended in 2020, they are now putting final touches on some projects.
He said they had worked on River Ranch, Ndambe Phase 1 and 2, Jalukange, Bili, Dombolidenje, Shashe, Kwalu, and Tongwe irrigation schemes with the help of the community members.
“Currently we are working together with the Department of Irrigation and our presence in Beitbridge district is overwhelming,” said Mr Katemaudzanga.
“We are working on nine irrigation schemes where there are various types of water delivery systems which are being upgraded.
In line with climate change, we are moving away from water-wasting methods to water serving technology which includes the use of drips and sprinklers and centre pivots”.
He said they were on a solar green climate drive and that so far they had installed solar plants at most irrigation schemes.
The projects, he said were now operating with 50 percent solar energy that’s complementing the general electricity.
Mr Katemaudzanga said the long-term plan was to ensure that operations at these projects depend on 100 percent on solar energy.
“We want them to be independent of the general electricity supply whose supply has been erratic,” he said.
“The use of solar energy will help the farmers to cut operations costs. For now, they have to use 50 percent electricity and 50 percent solar energy.
“This has worked well at many projects including at Jalukange where we have a 33kv solar plant, where there has been no constant power supply in the last three years”.
Members of the community, the official, and said had started appreciating the Government and its partners in revitalising the agricultural sector.
He said the introduction of robust irrigation management committees (IMC) and Business Development officers (BDOs) would ensure the farming projects are managed.
A plot holder at the 57 hectares Jalukange irrigation scheme, Mrs Mathamela Moyo said, the initiative had brought some hope to some plot holders who were contemplating giving up because of the state of affairs.
“As women, we are happy that we now have another alternative revenue stream to boost income at the household level.
The level of commitment to excel by the farmers is encouraging,” she said.
Another farmer, Ms Nomsa Moyo said they were now focusing on growing crops with a higher value on the market since they now have irrigation water and a constant power supply from the new solar plant.
“We are now majoring in chia and wheat, which have a higher market value and it’s pleasing to note that the government is linking us with inputs suppliers and the local markets,” said Ms Moyo.
Mrs Bettina Ndou said they were looking forward to seeing more male plot holders at the project, where women formed the bulk of the plot holders.
She said, the use of modern irrigation technology would help conserve water compared to the previous methods.
“When there was no electricity, the farming land had been reduced but now, we are opening up more land because we have solar energy to power irrigation”.
The acting agriculture extension services officer, Mr Ophias Ndlovu said the resuscitation of the irrigation project had started paying dividends.
He said the 138 farmers at Jalukange in Beitbridge West have managed to grow wheat on 22 hectares and chia on a one hectare demo plot.
“More land will be opened up as soon as the power supply increases and more cash crops like sugar beans will be introduced. For now they have planted chia and wheat,” he said.