Zimbabwe has the highest number of dams in Sadc.
That is a pleasing record.
However, it all ends there — just the numerical record of the country having the most dams in the region. That is so because the water bodies aren’t being fully utilised. They support some small community irrigation schemes here and there, provide water to communities and their livestock and some fishing opportunities. Otherwise most of the dams are essentially idle, their water escaping into the atmosphere or to the sea.
This sad state of affairs is about to end as the Government has decided to make that statistical Sadc record more meaningful.
The Government wants to build vibrant economies around dams across the country, improve their management and employing professionals to run the community irrigation schemes as businesses.
Launching the Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme on Saturday, President Mnangagwa said the Government wants to improve utilisation of dams adding that more than $10 billion has been allocated for dam construction. He said that the funding will also see at least 350 000 hectares of land around the dams being put under irrigation by 2025.
A policy mandating the Government to craft master plans for dams, detailing how their water would be utilised would be put in place and judiciously implemented, he said.
His Government has taken a stance to re-model irrigation schemes so that they are run more productively by deploying resident irrigation scheme business managers who would have a mandate to manage the facilities on business lines.
“This seeks to create rural industry systems and structures through rapid transformation, industrialisation and broad-based economic growth and development. I therefore, urge you to work hard, to be innovative and deploy your various skills to record more success stories out of this irrigation scheme.”
Speaking at the same event and on the same matter, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement, Anxious Masuka said the practice of simply welcoming completion of construction of a dam amid pomp and ceremony and doing nothing more thereafter, was now over.
“Your Excellency, under your guidance, the Bubi-Lupane Dam is no longer the project,” he said.
“We used to build a dam, commission and celebrate but the dam is now part of the broader projects, not the project. The project is rural development for the attainment of Vision 2030 and in the agriculture space, the components are dam construction, irrigation development, electricity generation, provision of drinking water and fisheries development.”
As already indicated, it was sad that many dams were just water bodies whose socio-economic contribution to local communities and the national economy was next to nothing.
As the President said, we want to see more serious economies emerging around the dams to better support local economies and contributing more to national economic recovery and growth.
We want to see the reservoirs supporting more viable irrigation projects, tourism and hospitality businesses, boating, fisheries and fish processing industries, property development, and electricity generation and so on.
More jobs would be created, standards of living of local communities would be improved, local infrastructure would improve, more revenue would accrue to the Government and the gross domestic product would be boosted.