Conrad Mupesa Mashonaland West Bureau
Electrical faults and vandalism of transformers is affecting wheat production in the Mashonaland West wheat growing belt.
This year’s target was set to ensure that Zimbabwe was assured of supplies regardless of possible global wheat shortages as a result of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
According to various international media outlets, at least 75 million tonnes of grain from Ukraine destined for Africa, risk rotting as export routes remain blocked by the current fighting.
Zvimba and Makonde farmers told The Herald that the vandalisation of electrical transformers and the poor response by the Zesa’s distribution arm, ZETDC, to attend to faults, was damaging farming operations.
Ms Nomhle Mliswa of Summer Hill Farm in Upper Doma, Mhangura, who has put 50 hectares of wheat under irrigation, said ZETDC response to faults from its Mhangura depot needed to improve.
“Electricity is a major concern around our area. We have a lot of faults and the electricity company is struggling to cope. Recently, we had a fault and Zesa had no parts in stock and we ended up meeting the costs. All this is threatening our crop,” she said.
Another farmer, Mr Ephraim Pasipanodya of Combe Farm in Zvimba, said there was a surge in vandalism of transformers and power lines.
“This is affecting our irrigation operations,” he said.
“If the faults are not attended to on time, this will negatively affect the country’s winter wheat harvest.”
The farmer has over 300 hectares under wheat.
Mr Farai Chirinda of Reinfields Farm along Chinhoyi-Karoi Highway bemoaned threats posed by thieves and vandals on electrical infrastructure.
“We have made sure that all our key and strategic points are guarded day and night so that our infrastructure remains safe.
“However, we have heard cases where armed gangs pounce on farms to strip down transformers for oil and copper cables and this is detrimental to the country’s development and food security,” he said.
Former first vice president of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union and Mhangura farmer Mr Barean Mukwende said most farms in his area had fallen prey to the thieves while many including those growing wheat were under threat.
The acting provincial director of agriculture and rural development Mrs Evelyn Ndoro confirmed the challenges.
“The major challenge that we faced as a province was the rains until the end of April which were good for the late summer crop, but this delayed winter wheat cropping.
“Vandalism is another problem we are facing and theft of electrical infrastructure.
“Farmers, law enforcement agents and the power utility should join hands to help safeguard the infrastructure to secure the wheat crop,” she said.