Govt targets 350 000ha grain under irrigation Professor Obert Jiri

Precious Manomano-Herald Reporter

About 350 000 hectares of grains are expected to be put under irrigable land in order to produce 1,8 million tonnes that are required for the country to retain self-sufficiency in summer grains.

Government is on a campaign to maintain food self-sufficiency and enhance national strategic grain reserves in the face of El Nino.

The intention is to fight the effects of climate change. 

Irrigation helps farmers in diversifying their farming operations, thereby allowing them to grow crops all year round rather than engaging in seasonal production. 

Even if irrigation is limited to supplementary irrigation in summer, it will at least ensure that gaps or deficiency in the summer rainfall can be combated, with irrigation supplying say half the required water.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Permanent Secretary Professor Obert Jiri said every inch of irrigable land must be put to the staple crops, including maize and traditional grains and irrigation schemes must be prioritised this season to ensure that the country produces enough in the face of El Nino period.

Prof Jiri emphasised the importance of Pfumvudza, adding that the erratic rainfall calls for climate proofing at the small holder farming level and statistics also indicate that farmers have so established 9,5 million plots out of the 11 million targeted. 

The conservation agriculture of Pfumvudza helps farmers cope with diminished rainfall by making best use of what they receive.

“We can also climate proof through irrigation development to a larger scale. Among the seventeen additional measures we say irrigation development plays a key role and on irrigation we say every inch of irrigable land must be put to our staple crop, maize and traditional grains and all these must be done under irrigation,’’ said Prof Jiri.

“Irrigable land must put cereals so that we ensure food security, but we also go a step further to also say all institutional land on agricultural colleges must be put under maize and cereal programming. We also want more irrigation schemes. 

“Out of the 416 irrigation schemes we have in the country about 331 were put under wheat which means that they are operational. The difference is not operational. If we fix them, we are looking at another 8 000 hectares. These are things which we can do this season to ensure that every inch of irrigable land is put to cereal crop production, that way we can climate proof to ensure food security. We should produce enough food for the country.’’

Prof Jiri said the country was sitting on 70 000ha under cereals, adding that the balance is needed to be scaled up as a country whether there is El Nino or no El Nino. 

He urged beneficiaries of Pfumvudza programme to adhere to principles of conservation agriculture, adding that the adoption rate of Pfumvudza is well appreciated.

In a recent interview, farmers said irrigation schemes are critical for small holder farmers to improve agricultural production, adding that 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 started reaping the rewards of their labour.

“We are unemployed as a family, we struggled to make ends meet until Government availed us of this opportunity for us. We are grateful we can now afford to send our children to school,’’ he said.

Mrs Margaret Simango of Guruve who stays near Dande said through their efforts, they are contributing towards boosting the country’s food security.

“The irrigation scheme in Guruve has enabled my family to be food secure. I am also glad that in my small way, I am also contributing to Zimbabwe’s food security,” she said.

A Banket farmer Mr Larry Muenza said his crop 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 at the land for many years and we cannot be spoon-fed all the time. We ask for loan facilities where we can 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.

“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.

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