Mashudu Netsianda Bulawayo Bureau
FOR almost 10 years, a vast tract of arable land, which forms Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme in Lupane, Matabeleland North Province, has been lying idle despite its huge potential to improve the locals’ livelihoods.
Today, the irrigation scheme — which is situated in Mpofu Village under Chief Mabhikwa — has been turned into a green belt.
It is one of the flagship Government projects that symbolise hope for nearly 100 families.
Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme is set to transform subsistence agriculture at household level into commercial agriculture as part of rural development and industrialisation in line with Vision 2030 of creating an upper middle income society.
Lupane is a rural semi-arid area with a growing population and some infrastructural expansion after it was accorded the capital status of the province.
The area falls under Savannah climate largely characterised by woodlands and grasslands.
Over the years, the local community has been largely practising subsistence farming and relying on seasonal rainfall.
The 200-hectare Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme is set to be a game changer following its revival by Government through the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda).
Already, local farmers have planted 180 hectares of winter wheat under three centre pivots and expect to harvest between 4 and 5 tonnes per hectare.
The irrigation scheme has been identified as a pilot project for an integrated business model to be replicated by 450 irrigation schemes across the country as the Second Republic accelerates rural development and industrialisation.
The President is next week expected to launch the Arda Vision 2030 accelerator model programme at Bubi Lupane Irrigation Scheme to stimulate rural industrialisation through agricultural development in line with Vision 2030, which is anchored on driving the country’s economy into an upper-middle-income.
Under the model, each district across the country will have 200 hectares under irrigation, with the beneficiaries being locals.
The programme will be replicated across all 450 Arda irrigation schemes to spur the growth needed in the smallholder sector and boost rural development.
This follows the launch last year of National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), the country’s five-year economic blueprint that adopted and implemented bold strategies, policies and programmes aimed at achieving economic transformation in less than 10 years.
The launch comes as the Government is implementing the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, which seeks to achieve a US$8,2 billion agriculture economy by 2025.
Our Bulawayo Bureau yesterday visited Bubu-Lupane Irrigation Scheme and spoke to farmers who expressed optimism following the revival of the community farming project.
Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme chairperson, Mr Gerald Khumalo said the irrigation project has created employment for locals, among them widows.
“Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme was established in 2014 following the construction of the Bubi-Lupane Dam. As a local community, we are grateful to the Government under the Second Republic, which is led by President Mnangagwa for the infrastructural developments at the scheme,” he said.
“A lot of money was channelled towards this project, which is a clear indication of commitment by Government to address the issue of food security and unemployment for locals. Through this project, we are now able to feed our families and send our children to school.”
Mr Khumalo said they have planted 180 hectares of wheat and there are three centre pivots with each covering 60 hectares.
“We hope to harvest the wheat next month and our target is to deliver at least five tonnes of wheat to Grain Marketing Board. This is a commercial set up, which means we have to till the land with the hope of generating profits. Every day, we work from 7am to 4pm so that our operations are smooth and swift,” he said.
“The irrigation scheme directly benefits 90 families and generated employment in Lupane through value addition as there will be raw materials for the production industry. It is also a platform through which students at Lupane State University can learn about farming.”
The irrigation scheme draws its water from 40 million cubic metre Bubi-Lupane Dam. The water body also supplies water to both Kusile Rural District Council and Lupane Local Board and surrounding areas including Lupane State University (LSU).
The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) is also utilising the water body through a thriving aquaculture project.
Lupane Women’s Centre (LWC) is also using water from the dam for its horticulture project.
Mrs Siphathisiwe Makuwi, a committee member of Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme, said the project will help them generate money to feed their families as well as send their children to school.
“We are excited about this irrigation scheme that was developed by Government. It will assist us in many ways particularly when it comes to raising money for school fees. Government, through the Presidential Inputs Scheme, has assisted us with inputs such as fertiliser and seed to plant the winter wheat,” she said.
Another beneficiary, Ms Zondiwe Ncube, a widow said: “My husband passed on in 2009 and I was left with the sole responsibility of looking after my five children. It was a struggle raising my children, but through this irrigation scheme, we are looking forward to sharing our profits and that money will assist in paying fees and boosting my poultry project.”
Ms Sikhulile Moyo (36), a mother of four, said the irrigation scheme will transform lives in Lupane and generate employment.
“We have a university in Lupane and we are looking forward to the students benefiting in terms practical knowledge. We will also be able to modernise our homes through profits generated from the irrigation scheme,” she said.
Local ward councillor Betty Sibanda said the irrigation scheme has empowered women.
“When this irrigation started functioning last year, farmers planted sugar beans and small grains and they managed to sell the produce and raised money for school fees among other necessities. We now have wheat which will soon be harvested,” she said.
“I believe this farming project is a game changer when it comes to women empowerment and transforming lives in our district, especially in Ward 18, which is my area of jurisdiction.”
Ms Soneni Nyoni (57) said she is taking care of her ailing daughter and her grandchildren.
“I am quite grateful to the Government for coming up with such a vibrant farming project, which has changed the face of Lupane. I am benefiting a lot from this irrigation scheme, especially considering that I am a widow looking after my daughter who is terminally ill and her two children,” she said.
“When we harvest the wheat, we will share our profits and part of the proceeds will help boost my cattle herd and modernise my home. I will also be able pay school fees for my two grandchildren because their mother is not well.”
Arda chief executive officer Mr Tinotenda Mhiko said they deployed a scheme development manager to Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme to ensure that the scheme is run viably and sustainably.
“We established 180 hectares of winter wheat and we are pleased with the development and work on the ground and we are looking at replicating this at 450 irrigation schemes across the country. From this model, we are paying attention to the agronomic practices and our operational efficiency targeting to get at least five tonnes per hectare,” he said.
Mr Mhiko said under the integrated business model, Arda is working in conjunction with other Government departments and agencies such as Agritex, Department of Irrigation, Zinwa and GMB to empower farmers.
Arda is mandated to ensure that the entire 88 000 hectares of potential arable land out of 142 000 hectares under its wing is fully utilised.