Nesia Mhaka,Harare Bureau
Government, through Agribank, has secured a US$10,5 million facility for irrigation equipment and machinery under the Pedstock Centre Pivots Irrigation Facility (Phase 2) from Spain, which will benefit both large and small scale farmers, as the country moves to improve productivity.
The development comes at a time when the Government recently secured two facilities worth US$102 million with the Belarusian government and John Deere to end the over reliance on rain-fed agriculture and produce all year round.
The country’s premier agriculture bank, Agribank, which was mandated by Government to oversee the facilities will also administer the facility to ensure there is transparency and independence.
Agribank chief executive Mr Sam Malaba said the move was targeted at increasing the area under functional irrigation and focus would be on rehabilitation, construction and modernisation of existing irrigation schemes.
“The US$10,5 million Pedstock Centre Pivots Irrigation Facility is for acquisition of centre pivots (Phase 2) as part of Government’s on-going farm mechanisation programmes for enhanced agriculture production and productivity,” said Mr Malaba.
“The bank is taking over the facility which is targeting to bring in 80 centre pivots, 80km pipes, 80 pumps, 80 generators and related accessories to put 2 900ha under irrigation.
“The capacitation of farmers is envisaged to lead to improved production and higher productivity.”
Mr Malaba said deserving farmers would access the equipment on a cost recovery arrangement.
“This facility is a follow up to the Pedstock Irrigation Facility Phase 1 which has seen the Government acquiring 19 centre pivots to be distributed to qualifying farmers as part of efforts to reduce the country’s vulnerability to drought owing to limited irrigation infrastructure facilities in the country,” he said.
“The programme was on-going and more centre pivots are expected in the near future which will boost production across the country’s vast arable and underutilised tracts of land, drawing from several dams whose waters remain idle.”
Mr Malaba said a recipient farmer was expected to make a 10 percent upfront payment and each unit is valued at US$60 000 and the balance is payable over a period of not more than five years.
He said the country had 220 000ha of developed irrigation, of which 175 000ha are operational.
“The existing irrigation master plan targets support for the eventual rehabilitation and to cover 300 000 hectares of irrigable land by 2023,” said Mr Malaba.
“From the 80 centre pivots which were acquired from Spain, Government will provide $500 000 for their installation.”
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Wonder Chabikwa said the irrigation facility was a welcome development, but Government should put more emphasis on modern water and energy-saving technologies due to crippling power outages that the country is experiencing.
“Given erratic rainfall patterns irrigation is the way to go to ensure enough food security in the country,” he said.
“Therefore, there should be urgency in terms of mounting new irrigation facilities and rehabilitate the old ones in order to start using them before the new season begins for the betterment of productivity in the 2019/2020 summer cropping season.
“However, more emphasis should be placed on finding alternative sources of power that will help in place of electricity because as it stands very few people are irrigating due to power cuts.”
Government is in the final stages of the US$98 million More Food for Africa programme which empowered various small scale farmers to irrigate all year round to match their large scale counterparts.
Agriculture experts believe modernisation does not involve sophistication of infrastructure only, but had a lot to do with management techniques as well.
This involves sustainability of irrigation schemes which is achieved by way of farmers contributing towards capital, operation and maintenance costs.
All communal farmers are encouraged to pay the $50 irrigation levy, water and electricity bills, and a development which will help local farmers to take farming as a business.