US$27m to revive irrigation schemes Dr John Basera

Precious Manomano Herald Reporter

The Government intends to increase the area under irrigation by rehabilitating non-functional irrigation schemes this season as part of efforts to improve agricultural production to mitigate the effects of climate change.

About US$27 million will be channelled to rehabilitate schemes to add 20 000 hectares next month to the 204 000ha under irrigation at the moment.

Government is targeting 460 irrigation schemes towards maize and this season about 90 000ha of potential irrigated land has been identified for maize as the Government scales up efforts to boost food production in face of El Nino season.

It is also targeting to increase the area under irrigation to 350 000 hectares by 2025 as the country aims to boost production.

The intention is to fight the effects of climate change but also irrigation farming helps farmers in diversifying their farming operations thereby allowing them to grow crops all year round rather than engaging in seasonal productions. Farmers with access to both dry land fields and irrigation often maximise the irrigation potential by using it for supplementary irrigation when rainfall is inadequate or when there is a dry spell.

Speaking during a media lunch held in Harare last Friday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary Dr John Basera said this season the country is safe although there are predictions of El Nino phenomenon, adding that there is a need to do the right thing to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“The right thing to do is AMA, which is adaptation, mitigation and action. We obviously have to adapt to climate change and vulnerabilities. We need to mitigate the vagaries of climate change but we need to be action oriented. AMA should be part of the war chest of climate change, effects and vulnerabilities,’’ he said.

“With regards to irrigation development, we have over 204 000ha under irrigation. If we can get 104 000 under maize at 7 tonnes per hectare, that’s incredible work and this is over 800 000 tonnes so this means we will be very safe. We are rolling out a number of programmes. We are rolling out irrigation programming where we are going to have about 20 000ha under irrigation in addition to the 204 000 ha under irrigation by October next month. We are investing through a number of programmes in which we are rolling out a tune of US$27 million so that we can quickly rehabilitate our irrigation schemes,” he said.

Recently farmers indicated that irrigation schemes are critical for small holder farmers to improve agricultural production, adding that the Government’s move to introduce the system is greatly appreciated.

They also said irrigation schemes constructed so far have turned the areas into green belts.

One of the beneficiaries of Bubi- Lupane irrigation scheme, Mr Martin Hlongwane, said the scheme has helped to transform subsistence agriculture at household level into commercial agriculture as part of rural development and industrialisation in line with vision 2030.

He said following the revitalisation of the scheme in 2021, they have started reaping the rewards of their labour.

“We were unemployed as a family. We struggled to make ends meet until Government availed us of this opportunity for us. We are grateful we can now afford to send our children to school,’’ he said.

A Chinhoyi farmer Mr Larry Muenza said his crop which is under irrigation was doing well.

“We thank the Government for availing irrigation facilities. In the summer season we can continue with farming, we see the difference with those farmers without irrigation,” he said.

Mr Taurai Mangisi of Katawa in Raffingora said because of climate change, rainfall patterns were no longer predictable and it was risky to depend purely on rain-fed agriculture.

“Some of us have been at the land for many years and we cannot be spoon-fed all the time. We ask for loan facilities where we can get irrigation equipment and pay in instalments,” he said.

Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Trust Mrs Depinah Nkomo said most farmers did not have irrigation facilities and urged the Government to invest in micro irrigation facilities.

“If every farmer can have 1ha under irrigation, we will be able to boost production of earnings from agriculture. We have the land and zeal to farm, but lack of irrigation facilities is affecting us. With irrigation we can grow different types of crops throughout the year and increase profits,” she said.

October, November and December forecast for the northern parts of the country indicate normal to below normal and then the southern parts of the country plus Matabeleland North into Northern Midlands and Matabeleland South being below normal to normal. The greater part of the country will likely receive normal to below normal and the lower part of the country below normal to normal .Then the second half of the season is predicted to be normal to below normal for the whole country.

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