Thupeyo Muleya-Beitbridge Bureau
The Government is accelerating the development of irrigation and water infrastructure to cover a total of 350 000 hectares of farming land in the next three seasons to boost agricultural production, a cabinet minister has said.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka, said on Friday the irrigation infrastructure was being constructed countrywide while in other areas obsolete projects were being revived.
Agriculture is one of the most strategic sectors that anchor Zimbabwe’s economy.
The sector employs and provides livelihoods to hundreds of thousands of families and individuals countrywide.
In an interview during the tour of Beitbridge agriculture projects, the minister said the developments were in line with the envisaged vision 2030 of transforming Zimbabwe into a middle income economy.
He visited Toppick Investment’s highly-integrated farm, Bishopstone Estate (citrus farm), Zhovhe Dam, and Schweppes’ Beitbridge Juice plant.
The minister said already the Governments of Zimbabwe and Kuwait had put together US$35 million for the construction of a 2500-hectare irrigation project at Zhovhe and a 63 km canal that will supply water to Beitbridge town.
The canal is also expected to supply water to commercial farms, smallholder farmers, and villages on its course to the border town.
“The context is that the New Dispensation has put in place an empowered upper-middle economy prosperous by 2030 as a vision,” said Minister Masuka.
“To enable that, agriculture is at the centre of that vision. To do so, irrigation and water development must be accelerated.
It is in this context that we have 350 000 hectares as a target for the next three seasons.
Dr Masuka said the Zhovhe Dam with a carrying capacity of 133 million cubic metres, has been idle for the past 25 years until Zimbabwe and the government of Kuwait managed to put together the funding last year.
At the moment the dam is being used by Toppick Investments to irrigate its farms and also supports a few fishing cooperatives.
The minister also expressed concern at the slow progress at which the Zhovhe water project is being implemented.
He said although an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) had been done, he was not happy with the quality of the works.
“My visit today was to assess progress on the EIA and the detailed designs within targeted irrigation areas.
“I am not happy with the progress and the quality of the work and I have given the project team a deadline that by September 30, they would have submitted and updated designs and completed the EIA.
“For far too long, people in this dry region have watched the water flowing into the Indian Ocean without even utilising it to uplift their lives”.
The Minister said the Government expects to ascertain the nature of the problem that is delaying the progress in the next six week.
He said by then they will need to know the exact route of the canal to Beitbridge.
Minister Masuka said the development of irrigation infrastructure at the Zhovhe water project cannot be delayed any longer.
“I have made it clear to the project team that we cannot go into the summer of 2022 without utilising the water at Zhovhe Dam,” he said.