Bhulaayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme: Beacon of hope Sorghum crop at Bhulaayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme

Nqobile Tshili, [email protected] 

NESTLED in Binga District in Matabeleland North Province, Bhulaayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme has turned into a beacon of hope in the heart of an arid landscape. 

For years, the district has battled the unforgiving grip of drought, exacerbated by the whims of El Niño. But now, a new chapter unfolds as the irrigation scheme springs to life, breathing vitality into the parched earth.

Bhulaayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme, one of the key projects being implemented by the Second Republic in Matabeleland North, was established in the early 2000, but had remained dormant largely due to failure in terms of pumping water from the Zambezi River to the fields.

Government has channelled a lot of funds towards the revitalisation of the massive irrigation scheme. 

The irrigation scheme is envisaged to promote food and nutrition security in the dry Binga District and Matabeleland North Province, as well as the entire country, especially in the wake of the effects of climate change and recurrent drought.

The Government put the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) in charge of the project, taking over from the Department of Irrigation, which had been managing the project over the years. 

It is envisaged that the irrigation scheme, which is being expanded to cover 15 000 hectares, will promote food and nutrition security in the country, which is reeling under the effects of climate change and recurrent drought. 

Under the Second Republic, the Government is prioritising the revival of the agricultural sector through the development of irrigation schemes to alleviate food insecurity and poverty, particularly in rural communities.

Binga District Development Co-ordinator, Mr Land Kabome Siansole said the irrigation project has been awaked after more than two decades.

“You will remember that it has been in existence for more than 23 years without any production. We thank the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr Anxious Masuka, and the Second Republic in particular for providing resources to ensure that it comes to life and we now have a crop under irrigation,” he said.

“We were directed to plant sorghum and I can safely say it is doing well and it is part of the drought mitigation measures.” 

Mr Siansole said the water pumping challenges that dogged the project have since been addressed.

When a Chronicle news crew visited the irrigation scheme last Thursday, it observed that the water storage facility was filled up, while the sorghum crop was doing well. 

Binga District Development Co-ordinator, Mr Land Kabome Siansole

Mr Siansole said the irrigation scheme is strategic for the district as it is capable of providing food security for the district.

“Now there is water for irrigation and we planted sorghum as a mitigation measure so that our people have food. Nearly everyone is affected in the district, you’ll remember that the Government was providing food to the elderly, the disabled, the orphaned, and other vulnerable groups and now the able-bodied are affected,” he said.

“That is why we were directed to put sorghum as a mitigation crop so that we can start harvesting in August. At least 400 hectares are supposed to be under irrigation, but we are not yet utilising all.”

Mr Siansole said once they start being productive, the irrigation scheme will produce food for the whole district.

He said plans are underway for the irrigation scheme to produce crops at a commercial scale as part of the rural industrialisation drive. 

Rural industrialisation, which hinges on the Second Republic’s devolution policy, involves nurturing agro-processing start-up enterprises in rural areas through financial and technological support via venture capital funding and Government agencies.

The rural industrialisation drive is one of the key interventions under the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa aimed at boosting domestic productivity and widening employment opportunities at a local level.

In particular, the rural industrialisation drive has been a major success in the agricultural sector where communities are now reaping the benefits of thriving production zones.

Mr Siansole said some of the beneficiaries of the irrigation, recently toured the Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme in Lupane to learn and exchange notes.

 “We are using the V30 Accelerator Model where we took the farmers to Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme. They saw what is happening there because that irrigation scheme is doing well. We are copying that model,” he said.

Bhulaayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme chairperson Mr Titus Munkuli praised the Second Republic for resuscitating the irrigation scheme.

“As a community, we are happy that the pipeline has been fixed and water is now reaching the water storage facility. There is a sorghum plant that is under irrigation. The Minister (Dr Masuka) said since we are in the drought period, the produce will be distributed to the community to ensure there is household food security,” said Mr Munkuli.

“Along the pipeline, there are water points for the local community to access water. We are happy that the Second Republic has seen it fit to revive this irrigation scheme. It’s almost 24 years since it was established and it has not been productive.”

Mr Munkuli said the scheme has over 100 members and the harvested sorghum will be distributed within the local community to enhance national food security.

He said once fully operational, the irrigation scheme will transform the trajectory of Binga and the Matabeleland region.

“It is the biggest in the Matabeleland region and once it starts operating fully it will contribute to national food security,” said Mr Munkuli. — @nqotshili



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