Tuli Makwe irrigation scheme upgraded A section of the recently commissioned Tuli Make Irrigation Scheme

Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu

AFTER years of watching in agony as their once thriving irrigation project collapsed, farmers at Tuli Makwe Irrigation in Gwanda district, Matabeleland South province have every reason to smile once again following the upgrading of the scheme into a business model.

The elevation of the 200-hectare irrigation scheme into a business model will help boost production following, a development that will see plot holders receiving monthly wages and dividends. 

Government in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has invested money to rehabilitate the irrigation scheme as the Second Republic continues to accelerate rural development and industrialisation.

IFAD is a specialised agency of the United Nations that works to improve agricultural development and livelihoods in rural areas mainly in developing countries.

The Government intervened to save the irrigation project from total collapse through the Smallholder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme (SIRP).

The farmers who were previously operating as individuals in separate blocks have now been harmonised and will operate the scheme as one block. 

Tuli Makwe Irrigation Scheme has been upgraded to a business model under the Vision 2030 accelerator model creating business for 180 families.

This will see the scheme being transformed from subsistence agriculture into commercial agriculture in line with the thrust of the Rural Development 8.0 model. 

As part of the transition Government has handed over all the assets of the irrigation scheme such as equipment and infrastructure to the farmers.

The Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) will manage the scheme on behalf of the villagers.

The farmers at the scheme have put 78 hectares under winter wheat and are expecting to harvest 4,5 tonnes per hectare. They are expected to receive a dividend of about US$1 000 after sales.

The scheme also has 34 hectares for maize and 10 hectares have been put under horticulture while 120 hectares have been earmarked for maize production during the 2023/24 summer cropping season.

The irrigation scheme, which is the largest communal irrigation scheme in the district, had been lying idle for the past five years. 

In interviews, farmers said they are looking forward to enhanced production which will ultimately see them delivering some of their produce to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB)

 “I started farming on this piece of land in 1976, and I have never been formerly employed, but I have been able to fend for my family using proceeds from farming. This land is our source of livelihood,” said Tuli Makwe Business Unit chairperson, Mr Louise Ncube.

He said the upgrade of the scheme marks the start of a fruitful business venture that will improve the lives of many.

“When the scheme was no longer working we were left in despair as a community. Now, we have been given a new lease on life as Government has come in to upgrade the scheme. In addition to that, the scheme is now a business unit,” said Mr Ncube

“We will tirelessly ensure that we fully utilise this opportunity and make our business productive.”

Mr Ncube said the money that farmers will earn will be used to sustain the scheme. 

The secretary of the business unit, Ms Nomathemba Mbano said Government has also assisted farmers with knowledge to run the enterprise. 

She said farmers have also been empowered with the necessary equipment.

“We started receiving training the moment the process of rehabilitating the irrigation scheme started. We were being prepared for this process and as members of the Tuli Makwe Irrigation Business Unit, we have been equipped to operate our business. We now know that we have to produce as one unit,” said Ms Mbano.

Another plot holder, Mr Benjamin Ndlovu said he was excited following the revival of the irrigation scheme. He said the project had greatly improved compared to the previous years.

The irrigation scheme had been lying idle since 2017 following a disruption in power supply due to the theft of copper cables.

Established in the 1960s, Tuli Makwe Irrigation Scheme was once the breast basket and major source of income for villagers in the area. 

Tuli Makwe Irrigation Scheme is set to contribute significantly towards food and nutrition in the province.

Government working with various partners is rehabilitating irrigation schemes that have been lying idle across the country to improve food and nutrition security.

SIRP was launched in November 2017 with the aim of assisting in the revitalisation of irrigation schemes across the country.

It is a Government led programme funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Under the Second Republic, Government is prioritising the revival of the agricultural sector through the development of irrigation schemes to alleviate food insecurity and poverty, particularly in rural communities.

Zimbabwe is an Agrarian economy with most of the country’s sectors being directly and indirectly linked to the agricultural sub-sector.

The Government under the Second Republic is targeting the transformation of rural and urban economies through the enhancement food production.

Zimbabwe envisages to be an upper middle-income economy by 2030 and agricultural production is critical in the attainment of that vision.

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