Small-scale irrigation schemes making an impact on food production Mrs Dairai Murahwa of Mwenje Farm in Nyazura on her plot where she is growing 10 000 heads of cabbages under irrigation. She supplies the cabbages to Rusape supermarkets and the local community. — Picture: Tinai Nyadzayo.

Samuel Kadungure-Mutare Bureau

THE development of viable small-scale irrigation systems is critical to increasing productivity, sustaining livelihoods, creating jobs and wealth as well as improving incomes at household levels.

Improving agriculture and enhancing productivity through small-holder irrigation is a key strategy in eradicating poverty and improving livelihoods of rural communities, especially in Manicaland where the bulk of the agricultural land lies in areas where rainfall is erratic and unreliable for dryland farming.

Irrigation, therefore, mitigates against droughts and mid-season dry spells, and enables farmers to grow crops throughout the year and intensify their production. 

The Second Republic’s bold move to develop irrigation — as guided by the Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development that is targeting to put 350 000ha under irrigation by 2025 in line with National Development Strategy (NDS1) — seeks to guarantee national food and nutrition security through increased and diversified crop production.

Food security is key to national security — the more a country imports food for its population, the more vulnerable the country is.

And Manicaland is at a critical moment, with Government resolutely laying the groundwork to address all major barriers such as poor infrastructure and soil fertility and poor access to farm inputs, farm implements, functional markets and agricultural knowledge, which have all contributed to low yields, food insecurity and low farm incomes. 

This necessitates climate-proofing agriculture against the always changing climate, which has led to unreliable rainfall.

Work on Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme in Nyanga included replacement and repair of existing pumps and flood protection structures for Blocs B,C and D pump stations that were damaged by floods in 2006.

Manicaland, like the country’s nine other provinces, is benefiting from irrigation rehabilitation and development under the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) which is being funded by Government and its partners.

Already, the Chiduku-Tikwiri Phase Five Irrigation Scheme (67ha) was developed under the turnkey arrangement with Maka Farm.

The irrigation scheme, which has 520 direct beneficiaries in Makoni West, was completed in March 2023 and managed to realise its first crop in the last winter season.

Across the province, 2023 saw the completion of Chibuwe Irrigation Scheme in Chipinge, with a total area of 367ha. 

Likewise, the rehabilitation of Cashel Valley (602ha) is in progress and above 75 percent complete. The rehabilitation is being funded to the tune of US$5,2 million under from the Small-holder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme (SIRP) which is funded by Government in partnership with IFAD.

Under the same programme, work is currently underway to develop 384ha at Romsley Irrigation Scheme in Makoni South at an estimated cost of US$5 million. 

The work is now 80 percent complete.

Already, 24 state-of-the-art centre pivots, pumps, canals and electricity have been installed, making it the first irrigation facility in Manicaland to be propelled by perhaps the most significant mechanical innovation in agriculture since the replacement of draught animals by tractors.

Centre pivots are the most popular sprinkler irrigation systems in the world due to their high efficiency, uniformity and ability to irrigate uneven terrain, as well as low maintenance costs. 

The rehabilitation of Romsley Irrigation Scheme is part of the Second Republic’s vision to unleash the productivity of small-scale farmers to achieve food security, create jobs, reduce poverty and establish the agricultural sector as an engine for rural industrialisation. 

Government, in partnership with the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), in 2020 revitalised the Chibuwe/Musikavanhu Irrigation Scheme in Chipinge under the SIRP.

The project was funded to the tune of US$51 million, and straddled over 1 000ha to cover Blocs A1, A2, A3, A4, B1, B2 and B5 — which had canals and pumps rehabilitated and boreholes drilled.

Through the Second Republic’s engagement and re-engagement thrust, Japan injected US$18 million in the rehabilitation and modernisation of Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme in Nyanga. 

The Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme Phase Two expansion project included the construction of pumping facilities, improving water level control, water distribution and flow measurement by building new canal structures, modifying existing ones and lining irrigation canals. 

It is also included replacement and repairing of existing pumps and flood protection structures for Blocs B, C and D pump stations that were damaged by floods in 2006. 

New irrigation infrastructure was also set up for an additional 146 hectares on Bloc A, thereby bringing number of direct beneficiaries at Nyakomba to 900.

Government also injected US$602 000 for the development of a 69ha Chitemene Irrigation Scheme in Makoni and another US$240 000 for Musikavanhu B2 Irrigation Scheme in Chipinge. 

The two projects have about 1 000 direct and indirect beneficiaries. 

Full utilisation of water from Marovanyati Dam will transform the livelihoods of the surrounding community.

In partnership with the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB), Government has also rehabilitated Chimanimani and Chipinge’s irrigation infrastructure that was damaged by Cyclone Idai in March 2019.

Maunganidze Irrigation Scheme (Chipinge) received a shot in the arm when United Nations Population Services installed a 130kv solar plant to enhance productivity which was being compromised by power cuts.

Maunganidze is one of the largest schemes in the district and productivity had drastically dwindled due to lack of electricity to power its irrigation muscle.

The 130kv power plant is helping to draw water from Save River and boreholes to irrigate 65.5ha of horticultural produce at the scheme.

The project was implemented under the Cyclone Idai Recovery Programme.

Cyclone Idai had damaged the scheme’s pumps, perimeter fence and water canals.

Great progress has also been recorded at Nyanyadzi Irrigation Scheme’s main canal, which is nearing completion.

Under the Green Climate Fund being implemented in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) — Government has completed feasibility studies in Chipinge and Chimanimani. 

The biggest project under the programme is Rimbi Irrigation Scheme, which is undergoing feasibility studies. Its draft report is currently being shared with stakeholders for their input.

When it comes to water harvesting, dams like Mpudzi, Ruti, Marovanyati, Mwarazi and Osborne quickly come to mind. 

Full utilisation of water from these dams is key to transforming the livelihoods of the surrounding communities. 

At Marovanyati, the first contract to develop the first block has been awarded and the contractor is set to deploy to the site this month. 

The process to engage a contractor to develop the first 450ha at Osborne under the Vision 30 accelerator model is also underway. 

The heavy reliance on rain-fed farming that had turned out to be a recipe for disaster for the Nyamajura community in Mutare North will now be a thing of the past after the establishment of the 450ha scheme. 

Over the years, the Nyamajura community had grappled with acute food shortages despite its proximity to Osborne, the biggest water reservoir in Manicaland.

Government, through the Public Sector Investment Programme, is this year expected to construct the 450ha scheme — the biggest to draw water from the dam — to mitigate against the impact of climate change-induced droughts and mid-season dry spells.

Osborne Dam, sitting on 2 600ha of land straddling three districts — Mutasa, Makoni and Mutare — has a full supply capacity of 401 620 mega litres, enough to irrigate 10 000ha in the long term.

Feasibility studies and preliminary indications show that a hydro-power generation plant can be developed at Osborne for the purposes of generating power, since electricity is critical to irrigation.

Provincial Irrigation Engineer, Engineer Tendai Chimunhu confirmed the development saying: “The project is expected to start in 2024 under the turnkey arrangement in which the contractor, whose procurement is being finalised, will develop the scheme as per designs and hand it over to the client when complete.

“About 450 families in villages 1A, 2, 3 and 4 in Nyamajura, Mutare North, will irrigate a hectare each, and in the long term water from the dam will be fully utilised through a 26km canal from Nyamajura passing through a number of old resettlements and A1 farms, up to the Mutare-Harare Road. 

“This will double the province’s irrigating capacity and food, cash crop and livestock related production. It will also revive agro-processing factories through value addition and beneficiation,” said Engineer Chimunhu.

Mutare North legislator Cde Admire Mahachi said the project will be the biggest to draw water from Osborne.

Cde Mahachi said this will enable farmers to grow crops throughout the year and intensify production, thereby creating employment, increasing rural income, ensuring food security and transforming rural livelihoods.

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