Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu , Chronicle Reporter
IT is all smiles for farmers at irrigation schemes in Matabeleland South Province which were rehabilitated by Government and its partners as they are expecting bumper harvests after consecutive years of poor seasons.
Government has started rehabilitating major irrigations in drought-prone Matabeleland South Province as it applies more resources towards efficient irrigation systems in line with Vision 2030. The revitalisation of the irrigation schemes is consistent with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), which was launched last year in November by President Mnangagwa.
NDS1 will pool resources for the provision of agricultural infrastructure that will give credence to the attainment of a US$8,2 billion agriculture economy in line with Vision 2030. From an agriculture perspective, NDS1 is focusing on raising farm output and efficiency as well as unlocking other economic opportunities.
It seeks to increase production and productivity, especially by smallholder farmers to ensure food and nutrition security, enhanced incomes, increased opportunities for value addition and the development of agro-business value chains.
In Gwanda, Government working in conjunction with the International Fund for Agricultural Developmment (IFAD), has invested US$600 000 towards revitalisation of 65ha Sebasa Irrigation Scheme which had been lying idle for several years.
Sebasa Irrigation Scheme vice chairperson, Mr Limakatso Sebata said they had a good crop after recording poor harvests for six consecutive years.
He said so far, they had nine hectares under wheat which they were going to harvest at the beginning of next month. They also have nine hectares under maize and five hectares under water melons.
The irrigation which is in Ward 24 has 93 farmers. “We are excited that for the first time in six years we have a good crop at Sebasa Irrigation. Our wheat is at maturity stage and we will be harvesting it beginning next month, our maize is at emergence stage. Before the irrigation was rehabilitated under the SIRP only 43 farmers were operating at the irrigation because of water challenges. The water we were getting was hardly enough for our crops,” he said.
“Most of the time we would plant our crops but they would wilt. Under the rehabilitation programme solar panels were installed in the irrigation and eight more pumps were installed in addition to three that we had, making our water challenges a thing of the past. We are looking forward to bumper harvests from here onwards and maximum production at our irrigation.”
Mr Sebata said they were in the process of clearing more land at the irrigation in preparation for planting in October.
Early this year development partner, Practical Action completed rehabilitation works at four underutilised irrigation schemes in Gwanda and 15 gardens. Farmers used to rely on rain water which meant that they could only plant once per year. Siltation of dams and obsolete equipment at their irrigation schemes forced some farmers to stop cultivation of crops.
The programme included drilling of boreholes, installation of solar powered systems, mounting of Jojo tanks, rehabilitation of obsolete infrastructure and construction of new infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted water supply.
Chairperson of Reneitsi Irrigation Scheme in Ward 18, Mr Alton Sibanda said 67 farmers are operating at the irrigation.
“Our maize crop is looking good and we are expecting a good harvest. Water challenges are now a thing of the past and from here onwards we are expecting bumper harvests each year. Before our irrigation scheme was rehabilitated we used to get water for our crops from a nearby dam but it had become heavily silted and we couldn’t access water. We had to stop our operations in 2015,” he said.
Ms Sikhanyisiwe Moyo who is a member at Phaphamani Garden in Ward 15 said their crop was performing well following the rehabilitation of their garden early this year. She said for the past three years they were recording poor yields because of water challenges but they now had a solar powered system.
Matabeleland South acting provincial Agritex officer, Mr Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu said the crops at irrigation schemes and small gardens in the province that had been rehabilitated by Government and its partners were in a good state. He said farmers in other irrigations that have been rehabilitated were expected to start planting next month.
Mr Ndlovu said irrigation projects that have been lying idle over the years will be fully [email protected]