‘Dam is an economy’ philosophy to spur production “The new ethos and philosophy of ‘a dam as an economy’ has seen the expanded project scope, including dam construction, irrigation development, hydro-electricity generation, potable water and fisheries development as fundamental project tenets to accelerate rural development for the attainment of Vision 2030, elevate and improve livelihoods while leaving no one and no place behind,” Dr Masuka said.

Edgar VheraAgriculture Specialist Writer

THE “dam is not the project, but what the water is intended to do” philosophy introduced by President Mnangagwa has given the country a fresh perception of dams and their potency in accelerating economic development.

In a recent message to mark the 2024 World Water Day whose theme was “Leveraging Water for Peace,” Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka said this year’s celebrations came against the backdrop of the El Nino drought and the Government’s advancement of the dam as an economy concept.

“The Second Republic auction, with 13 dams and lakes under construction in all provinces.

“The new ethos and philosophy of ‘a dam as an economy’ has seen the expanded project scope, including dam construction, irrigation development, hydro-electricity generation, potable water and fisheries development as fundamental project tenets to accelerate rural development for the attainment of Vision 2030, elevate and improve livelihoods while leaving no one and no place behind,” Dr Masuka said.

He said under the Presidential Rural Development programme, 35 000 village business units (VBUs), 9 600 school business units (SBUs) and 4 800 youth business units (YBUs) would be established across the country.

These business units, configured as one in each village, one per school, will transform rural areas at a pace and scale for the accelerated attainment of Vision 2030, he added.

Agricultural development at business units will drive rural industrialisation, which will in turn spur rural development.

Zimbabwe is endowed with rivers and has many dams, estimated at 10 600.   

The area under irrigation rose 29 percent from 150 000 hectares in 2020 to over 193 000ha last year.

The immediate observable effect of irrigation development is the successive increase in production of wheat to surpass national requirements in the past two seasons.

In 2022, wheat area was around 80 000 hectares with a production of over 375 000 tonnes allowing the country to be self-sufficient from local production. This feat was repeated last year when both previous hectarage and production records were eclipsed.

A total of 90 912 hectares of wheat were planted last year, which yielded 467 905 tonnes, the highest record since wheat growing started in 1966.

President Mnangagwa directed the localisation of the construction of all dam projects, as the country seeks to de-risk agriculture through an ambitious plan to irrigate 350 000 hectares by 2025.

The Government formed the Irrigation Development Alliance (IDA), involving all stakeholders, to ensure that through public and private sector efforts, the target of 350 000 hectares under irrigation will be achieved by 2025. 

Government directed the commercialisation of all smallholder irrigation schemes with completion of irrigation development projects being given top priority.

Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube said $55,30 billion had been set aside in the 2023 Budget for the development of irrigation infrastructure, fisheries and water conveyancing systems, among other interventions to ensure the utilisation of idle water bodies, such as Tugwi Mukosi, Marovanyati, and Muchekeranwa dams.

Under the National Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Programme (NAIRDP), Treasury committed part of the special drawing rights (SDR) allocation, amounting to US$20 million, towards irrigation development under the Smallholder Irrigation Infrastructure Development Fund (SIIDF).

The fund targeted 18 irrigation schemes for vulnerable rural smallholder farmers and to finance the development of irrigation infrastructure spread in the eight rural provinces of the country. 

In the 2024 National Budget, $608,3 billion was set aside towards the following strategic priorities in the water and sanitation sector: rehabilitation and maintenance of existing water and sanitation infrastructure; construction of additional water bodies, targeting completion of ongoing dam projects and improving access to water and sanitation services in the rural areas through drilling of boreholes and the construction and rehabilitation of water supply schemes among others.

On the fisheries development component, Government is working on sustainable ways of revitalising the aquaculture industry to ensure food and nutrition security.

Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources Department (FARD) director, Mr Milton Makumbe revealed that they had intensified dam stocking with indigenous fish species to alleviate declines in fish populations for communities surrounding dams. 

He said they were also advocating sustainable management of fisheries resources in communities near dams under the Presidential Community Fisheries Scheme, which started in 2021. 

“The same programme also looks at pond stocking in SBUs, YBUs and VBUs. These are sexed fingerlings for grow out and table fish production,” said Mr Makumbe. 

The Government is targeting to stock 1 200 dams with fingerlings in its endeavour to increase the country’s consumption rate per capita to 13 kilogrammes by the year 2025.

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