Richard Muponde, Gwanda Correspondent
TWO major irrigation schemes in Gwanda district that have been lying idle due to water shortages have received a life line after they were connected to a solar plant, which will run more than 16 electric pumps at the two projects.
The irrigation schemes, Rustler’s Gorge and Mankonkoni in Ward 19, have been lying idle for years due to non-availability of water as a result of constant break down of the diesel engine pumps.
Last week the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development responsible for Livestock, Paddy Zhanda, announced that the government was planning to take over all unproductive irrigation schemes to enhance food security in the country.
Non-Governmental Organisations such as SNV, Practical Action, Dabane Trust and the Department of Irrigation are working together to resuscitate these irrigation schemes.
Briefing delegates who included a team from Malawi who went on a filed tour of the solar farm and the irrigation schemes, Practical Action engineer Shepherd Masuka said the solar farm was capable of generating 99 kilowatts, which is enough power to run the irrigation schemes.
“The solar panels have a life span of 25 years running at 100 percent and that’s enough power to run the irrigation schemes. After that period they will still be enough power for the schemes as it’ll be running at 80 percent. So farmers are guaranteed uninterrupted power in their operations,” he said.
Masuka said the solar power station was switched- on, on January 21 this year and was awaiting commissioning early next month.
Donaldbain Mtetwa from Dabane Trust said they had so far sunk four submersible pumps at Rustler’s Gorge, each with the capacity of pumping 30 cubic metres of water per hour, which was enough to cater for the 31 hectare irrigation scheme.
“This irrigation hasn’t been functioning for some time. Water assessment was done by the irrigation and mechanisation department and it was noted that inside Shashe River, water abstraction can be done. Four submersible pumps have been installed and we remain with the other four. Once we’re done with water supply we’ll go into infield rehabilitation of canals and other things, which need attention,” said Mtetwa.
He said the same will be done for Mankonkoni where pumps have to be installed.
Gwanda Rural District Council engineer, Samukeliso Masiyane said the programme was in line with the government pronounced blue print Zim-Asset under the food security and nutrition cluster.
Most irrigation schemes in the country are unproductive due to a number of reasons ranging from shortage of water, ballooning water and electricity bills and broken down equipment.