Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Matabeleland South Bureau Chief
PRODUCTION at Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme, one of the largest irrigation schemes in Gwanda District, Matabeleland South province, has been affected after thieves stole copper cables and drained oil from a transformer resulting in the disruption in the water supply.
The scheme has 40 hectares of maize and farmers are now relying on rainwater for their crops following the disruption of the power supply.
The irrigation scheme, which was established early last year, is a source of livelihood for about 160 families in Mtshabezi Village and surrounding areas.
Last year, farmers recorded a good wheat harvest, which was their first crop. The farmers who were geared for increased production during the summer cropping season, said the vandalism is a huge setback for them.
Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme which had remained a pipe dream for 87 years was established under Government’s accelerated rural development and industrialisation drive in line with Vision 2030.
Last September, Government channelled $177 million towards the establishment of the 200-hectare irrigation scheme as part of its accelerated efforts to revitalise irrigation schemes to ensure food security.
The Government, working with various partners, is rehabilitating irrigation schemes that have been lying idle in Matabeleland South Province and establishing new ones to improve food and nutrition security and ensure the attainment of Vision 2030.
The Second Republic is targeting to rehabilitate and develop 350 000 hectares of land by 2025 to safeguard the country against the negative effects of climate change and ensure food security.
A number of irrigation schemes that have been lying idle in the province have been revived while some that were being underutilised have been capacitated and expanded.
Government continues to step up efforts to develop the agricultural sector, some of which have been thwarted by theft and acts of vandalism, which are the major causes for non-functioning irrigation schemes in Matabeleland South province.
According to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVac) 2022 rural livelihoods assessment provincial report for Matabeleland South, 23 irrigation schemes were fully functional, 22 were partially functional and 12 irrigation schemes were not functional.
The chairman of Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme, Mr Ndabezinhle Nyoni said the latest development is likely to impact negatively on production.
“We were looking forward to an improved and better farming season, but our plans have been disrupted. Copper cables were stolen from the dam, which supplies the irrigation and oil was drained from the transformer,” he said.
“There is a possibility that the transformer will have to be replaced and this will require a lot of money. We need consistent water supply to be restored as a matter of urgency so that our maize crop doesn’t wilt.”
Mr Nyoni said several families are dependent on the irrigation scheme for a source of livelihood.
Mtshabezi village head, Mr Press Dube urged the local community to assist police so that the suspects are brought to book.
“Such people have to be removed from the society as they are a threat to development. The Government is making efforts to improve livelihoods through the irrigation scheme,” he said.
“The community has also put in a lot of effort towards ensuring that the project is a success, but you have rogue elements.”
Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda) manager for Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme, Mr Sindiso Mlalazi said half of the maize at Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme is now at the germination stage and requires a reliable water supply.
He said Zesa has been engaged to restore the power supply at the irrigation scheme, which draws water from Mtshabezi Dam.
The irrigation scheme, which is being managed by Arda, is set to transform subsistence agriculture at household level into commercial agriculture as part of rural development and industrialisation.
The scheme has been established as part of an integrated business model that is being replicated across all provinces in the country as part of the National Food Security Strategy.
Irrigation farming is critical in Matabeleland South province, a semi-arid region characterised by low rainfall patterns.
Another irrigation scheme in the district, which was severely affected by vandalism and theft is Makwe Irrigation Scheme.
The 200-hectare irrigation scheme which is the largest in Gwanda District, has been lying idle for the past five years after power supply to the irrigation was disrupted because of the theft of copper cables.
Matabeleland South provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Loveness Mangena said investigation are underway. – @DubeMatutu