Irrigation schemes will boost production: MPs
Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
The Brazil More Food for Africa Programme has the potential to boost agricultural production and ensure the country regains its status as the breadbasket of Africa, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development said recently.
Zimbabwe received agricultural equipment worth $38,6 million from Brazil under the More Food for Africa Programme as Government accelerated efforts to achieve targets set under the Zim-Asset Food Security and Nutrition Cluster.
The equipment, which includes tractors, fertiliser spreaders and irrigation kits, was the first of three tranches coming under a $98 million loan facility secured from Brazil under the South American country’s More Food For Africa Programme.
Beneficiaries under Phase One are schemes for smallholder farmers who benefited from the land reform programme.
Under the programme, irrigation schemes received equipment that included tractors, ploughs, disc harrows, planters, boom sprayers and centre pivots.
The equipment is not for free and farmers will pay back using proceeds from the schemes.
The committee last week toured some of the irrigation schemes in Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Manicaland that benefited from the programme to assess how they were performing and the challenges they faced.
After touring the schemes, the committee chairman, Retired Brigadier-General Kalisto Gwanetsa, said maximum utilisation of the scheme could fulfil Government efforts of ensuring national food security.
“The irrigation equipment will enable Government to fulfil the 10-Point Plan and reduce the effects of climate change. The 10-Point Plan emphasises revitalising agriculture and the agro-processing value chain, advancing value addition to agricultural produce.
“We cannot be seen importing food when we have such equipment. There is need for the farmers to make full use of the equipment. The machinery should not lie idle. Nyanyadzi Irrigation Scheme is feeding the whole district from its 400 hectares,” he said.
Rtd Brig-Gen Gwanetsa said through irrigation, farmers could produce thrice per year.
He said more farmers should be assisted with irrigation equipment to intensify agricultural production.
“We should have at least two irrigation schemes per ward,” he said.
The committee visited Chesa Mutundwe Irrigation Scheme in Mt Darwin where farmers said they had increased maize yields due to availability of irrigation equipment.
The farmers used to harvest around two tonnes per hectare, but have increased yields to six tonnes per hectare. The scheme is experiencing challenges as the water levels have declined.
The water valve at Chesa Mutondwe scheme was vandalised and the dam is losing water at a high rate threatening irrigation operations.
In Mutoko, farmers at Chatora Irrigation Scheme are growing horticulture crops and said operations had improved due to the equipment they received under the Brazil More Food for Africa Programme.
The farmers said they used to have challenges with tillage, but can now carry out the operation timely. The farmers have also improved planting population as they now use planters for planting.
Beneficiaries at Nyanyadzi Irrigation Scheme said in five months of irrigating their crops, they managed to reduce Zesa bills from $56 000 to $37 000 using proceeds from the fields.
The farmers told the committee that they were facing challenges of lack of markets and ended up selling their produce at give-away prices.
Rtd Brig-Gen Gwanetsa said the farmers should approach the Agricultural Marketing Authority so that they can have market information and also partner with the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA)to venture into value addition of their produce.