Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
A non-governmental organisation, CESVI, has started rehabilitating and modernising nine irrigation schemes in the drought prone district of Beitbridge to boost climate change adaptation methods and enhance agricultural productivity and resilience among smallholder farmers.

Climate change is a long-term shift in the climate of a specific location, region or planet that occurs when the climate of a specific area or planet is altered between two different periods of time.

This shift is measured by changes in features associated with average weather conditions such as temperature, wind and rainfall patterns.

Apart from natural causes, humans also cause climate to change by releasing greenhouse gases and aerosols into the atmosphere by changing land surfaces and by depleting the stratospheric ozone layer. CESVI head of mission Mr Loris Palentini told The Herald recently that the initiative was being implemented under the three year Zimbabwe Resilience Programme funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The UNDP availed $5,3 million in 2017 for the initiative, which also covers non-forestry timber projects in Nyanga. Benefiting irrigation projects include Bili, Shashe, Jalukanga, Dombolidenje, River Ranch, Tongwe, Kwalu, Tshikwalakwala and Ndambe 2.

Said Mr Palentini: “The broader resilience plan is to mitigate the effects of climate change through sustainable irrigation methods to conserve water and increase productivity.

‘‘We want to get all the different elements that will help communities to produce more with minimum water.

“You will note that irrigation water has been scarce in the last three years, where we have experienced successive droughts.

“In this case, the farmers need to spend less for their inputs but use sustainable methods to improve productivity.’’

Mr Palentini added that the overall idea for the project was to make the communities, local authorities, private partners and extension services aware of the importance of working together in sustaining these irrigation schemes, to use less water and less operational costs.

He also said most irrigation management committees had not been able to set aside funds for equipment and infrastructure. CESVI is now collaborating with agriculture extension services to teach farmers on the importance of using business models to manage their irrigation projects.

The NGO is helping smallholder farmers to move from flood irrigation to centre pivots, pressurised watering systems and drip irrigation, among other modern technologies.

Mr Palentini further said at some initiatives, they moved to high value crops like citrus and sugar bean seed production. The idea is to try and bring more commercial partners on board to get diversification of a variety of high value crops, he said.

Mr Palentini said they had moved to developing irrigation farming as part of a broad based natural resources management system to give a better life to communities. The NGO believes it was important for people to migrate from subsistence farming and venture into real food security and farming of a commercial nature.

Climate change management department’s scientist responsible for publicity and communications Mr Tatenda Mutasa yesterday said it was critical for farmers to consider water harvesting, growing drought tolerant crops, using water efficient irrigation systems such as drip irrigation, dam construction and crop diversification, as climate change adaptive methods.

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