George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
Masvingo’s biggest irrigation scheme, Mushandike, faces collapse amid reports that some corrupt village heads and senior Government officials were illegally demarcating plots on land set aside for irrigation.
The scheme, which straddles nearly 1 000 hectares, was the food lifeline for villagers in the arid Chivi district and the nearby Masvingo city. Its collapse will exacerbate an already precarious food situation owing to drought.
Mushandike was initially created for about 200 plot-holders, but the viability of their farming operations is now under threat owing to the proliferation of illegal settlers.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development responsible for Cropping Davis Marapira yesterday said village and senior Government officials were raking tens of thousands of dollars by illegally selling plots at Mushandike.
He claimed that the corrupt officials were charging up to $800 per plot and called on Government to intervene and save Masvingo’s biggest irrigation scheme from collapse.
“There is a rampant illegal allocation of plots at Mushandike which is threatening the future of the irrigation scheme. The corruption chain involves village heads and some senior Government officials who are illegally pegging plots in other people’s irrigation plots,” he said.
“The corrupt cartel is charging up to $800 per plot from desperate land seekers and the situation has plunged the whole irrigation scheme into chaos.
“There is need for Government to act fast and save the irrigation scheme from collapse.’’
Deputy Minister Marapira said officials implicated in the illegal land sales should be arrested with the illegal settlers being evicted to save the scheme from collapsing.
“Mushandike was on a recovery path after funds were injected to rehabilitate canals that were causing widespread loss of water, making farming operations difficult. The scheme was on a steady path towards recovery but the problem of illegal settlers will bring it back to the ground,” he said.
Mushandike used to be the biggest producer of wheat in Masvingo but the scheme is now operating way below full capacity.
The irrigation scheme almost collapsed a few years ago after Mushandike Dam upstream dried up, leaving the plots without water for irrigation.
The dam’s capacity has been whittled down over the years by rampant siltation blamed on overpopulation in the catchment area while recurrent droughts were frustrating water inflows into the reservoir.
Government has been mulling developing a $10 million pipeline linking Mushandike Dam and Muzhwi in northern Chivi, but the dearth of funding has rendered the project a stillbirth.