George Maponga in MASVINGO
Communities around the idle Manjirenji Dam in Zaka want the Government to speedily develop and restore irrigation using water from the reservoir in one of Masvingo province’s driest districts.
About US$700 000 is required to repair battered outlet pipes and procure new valves to enable reliable supplies of irrigation water downstream.
Manjirenji was commissioned in 1966 and presently supplies irrigation water to Mkwasine cane estates in eastern Chiredzi. The dam along Chiredzi River was previously named Lake MacDougall after the founder of Triangle Estates.
Communities in areas around the water body such as Dzoro and Chekenyere want Government to develop irrigation schemes for them using Manjirenji water to end crop failure caused by drought.
Mr Givemore Chinorumba of Village 1A Ngwazi Extension under Chief Bota says communities around the dam have barely benefited from it.
“We are experiencing drought year after year here in Bota because of poor rainfall but we have Manjirenji Dam which is lying idle,” he said.
“We want to get assistance to develop irrigation schemes around the dam so that we can grow crops all year round.
“Every year, communities here depend on food handouts but we can as well stop relying on that after development of irrigation schemes that will help us to be food secure. This area is very dry and received very little rain and irrigation is the only way out.”
Mrs Charity Mutero of Dzoro Village said her family was displaced from the eastern flanks of the Manjirenji Dam basin upon completion in 1966 but never benefited from the water.
“We appeal for small irrigation schemes in downstream areas of the dam so that at least we can grow our own food.
“This will boost us in terms of food security and disposable incomes as we will also sell part of our produce,” said Mrs Mutero.
Development of a major irrigation scheme at Manjirenji Dam would make the new facility a supplier of the fast-expanding Jerera Growth Point in Zaka.
However, development of new irrigation schemes around Manjirenji would only take place after completion of outstanding rehabilitation works to allow efficient extraction of water from the dam.
Zinwa Runde Catchment area manager Mr William Tsvuura said repair works were underway to make ensure all the water from Manjirenji was used for irrigation.
Eng Tsvuura said Zinwa had set up water off-take points along the canal taking water from Manjirenji to Mkwasine to enable smallholder irrigation farmers downstream to access the water.
“We have some small irrigation schemes downstream of Manjirenji Dam and unfortunately some of the communities who want to benefit from irrigation stay upstream of the dam which requires water to be pumped to their fields and that makes it very costly and unsustainable.
“We can only irrigate areas downstream of the dam banking on gravity,” he said.
Work to repair corroded and leaking pipes was being hampered by lack of funds.
A local firm, Samburn Pressings, was awarded the tender to repair two 60-metre outlet pipes installed when the dam was built in the 1960s but now no longer usable and four valves that control water extraction are also now malfunctioning.
Samburn Pressings managing director Mr David Samuels said they require about US$700 000 to complete the project.
“We have not received any funding from April this year to now after we got this contract in March this year.
“We used our internal resources to do the works done to date like access roads.
“If we get US$700 000 we will be able to finish the work after five months from getting the funds because we will also have to import new valves to replace the non-working ones,” said Mr Samuels.
Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Monitoring the Implementation of Government Programmes, Dr Joram Gumbo, who recently toured Manjirenji Dam to assess progress in rehabilitation works said shortage of foreign currency was affecting the project.
“The contractor is being paid by Government but the problem is getting foreign currency at the auction system.
““We will engage the relevant office for assistance in getting foreign currency at the auction system,” said Dr Gumbo.
Most of Manjirenji’s water is irrigating over 7 000 hectares of cane plantations at Mkwasine estates.