Master plan holds back Tugwi-Mukosi potential
Lovemore Chikova Development Dialogue
The crafting of a development master plan for Tugwi-Mukosi Dam catchment area should be expedited to ensure the reservoir starts benefiting surrounding communities.
Since the dam was commissioned in 2017, the long road to a development master plan appears to be the major stumbling block in realising the water body’s full potential.
Until now, the major beneficiaries of water from the dam have been the Lowveld sugar estates, whose irrigation potential has been boosted by the extra water.
More water is expected to be pumped to Mwenezi when the development of a sugarcane estate named Kilimanjaro is finalised soon.
But communities that surround the dam have been pinning hopes on the establishment of irrigation schemes in the surrounding areas that would draw water from the dam.
Businesses are hoping to reap rewards from activities at the dam, which is expected to attract tourists when it realises its full potential.
The major activity at the dam so far has been the harvesting of fish, which is benefiting a few cooperatives that have been established, especially by the youths.
Apart from some local schools which have been taking children on tours of the dam, there is little activity taking place which are of immediate benefit to the locals.
It is expected that Tugwi-Mukosi will change the food status of the whole of Masvingo province by providing water for irrigation.
Such hopes have been raised because the province is generally affected by drought, which has resulted in some families relying on food handouts from Government almost every season.
Tugwi-Mukosi Dam can make Masvingo, and especially Chivi South where it is situated, a green belt with the potential to contribute significantly to national food security. But the communities surrounding the dam actually think it is taking too long to reap the rewards.
Villagers surrounding schools such as Dare, Gororo, Shindi, Zunga, Madzivire, Mutote, Chehaya, Chasiyatende and Runesu would want to see something being done quickly to ensure the dam starts benefiting them.
Many view the dam as having displaced wild animals from the hills that were engulfed by its water, which relocated to the communities, where they are causing havoc.
The wild animals include hyenas, jackals and foxes, with the villagers saying they have noticed an increase in their presence following the completion of the dam.
What is also irking some of the villagers is that they watch while water flows from Tugwi-Mukosi dam to “far away” Chiredzi and Triangle to water cane fields, when they have not started benefiting.
They are crying for a quick establishment of irrigation schemes around the giant dam as the first step to ensure long-term benefits.
But this cannot happen without the development master plan being in place.
What this shows is that the longer it takes to develop the development master plan, the more rural communities around the dam continue with no immediate benefits from the dam.
While the development master plan is important to ensure strategic planning to avoid haphazard settlements, it is equally important that people surrounding the water resource start driving the benefits.
The vast swathes of arable land in the surrounding Madzivire and Shindi communal lands should start being prepared now for irrigation purposes.
It took long for Tugwi-Mukosi Dam to be finally commissioned.
The dam construction was expected to start in the late 1950s by the Rhodesian government, and another attempt in the late 1970s by the same government did not see any construction starting.
It was only in 1998, under the new Zimbabwean Government, that construction of the dam started.
But then, construction was affected by various problems, including lack of foreign currency, which saw Italian contractor Salim Impregillo, stopping work at various intervals because of non-payment.
This is why the development master plan should be expedited to ensure that the dam, which took almost 19 years to complete, starts benefiting the country.
Of course, the development master plan is necessary considering the vastness of what the dam is expected to achieve.
The dam is expected to unlock an array of business opportunities in the tourism, hospitality, retail and transport sectors, in addition to its potential to irrigate more than 25 000 hectares of land.
The dam is also expected to light up some of the southern parts of the country by generating at least 15MW of hydro-electricity.
The availability of electricity and water will also help with the setting up of industries at service centres surrounding the dam such as Museva, Ngundu, Lundi, and Dare.
There is need to deal with issues like biodiversity and water protection measures, and projects that diversify beyond the agricultural and industrial sectors.
These developments cannot take place without a proper development master plan that guides the physical changes to the area.
The development master plan will result in the sustainable use of land around the dam and ensuring a successful contribution to the development of the country.
Investors who might be interested in setting up projects around the water reservoir will obviously demand a clear roadmap on the land use to be assured of establishing permanent businesses.
This is why this article recommends a fast track approach in the crafting of the development master plan to ensure that everyone is clear on the way forward on land use around Tugwi-Mukosi Dam.
But it is important that the development master plan is crafted with the participation of the local communities, who will be directly affected by the attendant projects.
In many development projects in developing countries, development agencies have the tendency to leave out local communities in their plans, but they eventually encounter problems of resistance when it comes to implementation.
For instance, a new urban settlement can end up being constructed in the Tugwi-Mukosi area, and together with the setting aside of land for irrigation and water canals, this can lead to the displacement of people from their traditional homelands.
These people need to be included in the development plans, and they should be made aware of their fate on time so that they are prepared for any eventualities.
The Tugwi-Mukosi development master plan has been talked about for a long time, and it is time a final decision is made on the way forward.
At one time, Chivi and Masvingo rural district councils, which share the dam, were said to be at an advanced stage of crafting the development master plan, then in 2017 during the “Old Dispensation”, it was announced that Government had secured about $20 million for the crafting of the plan.
By that time, the development master plan was said to have been availed to Cabinet.
In 2019, it was announced that the crafting of the Tugwi-Mukosi development master plan had been divided into two sections, and was expected to be completed before the end of that year.
The development master plan was said to be being crafted by a South African consultant in collaboration with Great Zimbabwe University and the Midlands State University.
Recently, Government said the development master plan was expected to be unveiled during the first quarter of this year after Government cleared a US$200 000 debt owed to the South African consultant.
These plans could have been affected by an outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, but they should be revisited as soon as possible to enable the dam to benefit the local communities and the nation at large.