Solar power revives two Gwanda irrigation schemes

Gwanda  Ward 19 councillor Thompson Makhalima opens the gates to the Rustler’s Gorge Solar farm. while Practical Action engineer, Shepherd Masuka looks on

Gwanda Ward 19 councillor Thompson Makhalima opens the gates to the Rustler’s Gorge Solar farm. while Practical Action engineer, Shepherd Masuka looks on

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.

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  • mdawini

    well done Gwanda

  • orange chileshe

    Thats good news. We are proud of you guys. Excellent job.

  • Mixed Race

    On first sight it looks like a success story,however if we start factoring all the environmental issues the story changes badly.How much land was taken for the solar panels? What happens when one of these solar panels breaks and it releases some of its intoxic material? Was proper palaeontology study done properly before interfering with the surrounding soils? Surely,pumps could use Zesa power which is cheaper than this setup which requires high standards of maintenance.
    This engineer claims that these solar panels have life span of 25 years running at 10%.There is no system on this planet which is 100% efficient because we have many in-line losses eg due to cabling losses,transformation losses,switching losses and many others.

    • Mixed Race


    • Martha

      Dear Mixed Race

      • An environment impact assessment (EIA) was done and approved prior to the implementation of the project ,so the project is guided by the approved environmental management plan. I personally visited the site before it was developed and I can assure you there was not much there, hardly even any big trees, just very scrubby land.

      • As development organisations we complement government efforts as you can see this place is very far from the grid that’s why this option of renewable energy. In addition , ZESA has no plans to extend the grid to the areas within the next 10 years hence ZESA was not an option. Furthermore, ZESA is failing to meet its current demand ( load shedding), so adding more loads to ZESA is not an ideal solution.

      • I can see you are really worried about the environment but you are suggesting we use ZESA which has a significant proportion of coal generated power.

      • The Engineer said 100% performance of panels as per manufacturers specifications. The losses mentioned are for the whole system and not the panels which the engineer was referring to.

      Thank you very much for airing your concerns.