Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
THE rate with which Government is moving in implementing works at the Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme in Binga District, reflects the serious approach to development and commitment towards creating employment and alleviating poverty through transforming the area into an economic hub.
The irrigation scheme will transform the district, previously viewed as lagging behind in terms of development despite its vast potential.
It is envisaged that the irrigation scheme, which is currently 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.
The Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) has since entered into a joint venture with a local private company to put 15 000 hectares of land under food and export crops as well as crocodile farming.
The New Dispensation led by President Mnangagwa has released funds for the completion of the projects at Bulawayo Kraal with a lot of work currently underway.
Already 467 pipes for the mainline linking the engine water pumps from the Zambezi River to the overnight storage dams have been delivered with three centre pivots having been rehabilitated at the scheme.
Another overnight storage dam and pump engine houses are almost complete. An engine pump with a capacity to pump 315 cubic metres of water per hour has been installed in the Zambezi River.
At least 200 hectares of land has been cleared for the summer cropping season. Government has since engaged an on-site engineering consultant Mr Paul Kruger to offer technical assistance.
Under the Second Republic, 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.
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s countless visits to the irrigation scheme to assess progress, reflects the New Dispensation’s commitment to fulfilling the devolution agenda. Speaking during his tour to assess progress on the implementation of ongoing works at Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme on Sunday, V P Chiwenga said Government will not tire in ensuring that there is enough food in the country as evidenced by the recently launched Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy.
President Mnangagwa launched the programme whose aim is to provide a compass for agriculture in line with Vision 2030.
VP Chiwenga said the Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme remains one of the Government’s key priorities.
The Minister of State for Matabeleland North Richard Moyo said the rehabilitation of Bulawayo Kraal highlights Government’s commitment in ensuring that communities living in areas surrounded by water bodies benefit from their natural resources.
“The revival of Bulawayo Kraal signifies the commitment by Government under the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa to transform lives of rural communities. This massive project, which has for a long time been lying idle has got a new lease of life and people in Binga and surrounding areas will certainly reap rewards from the vast water in the Zambezi River,” he said.
“This project marks a new dawn for people in the district and surrounding areas as it represents a significant turnaround and economic transformation, not only for Binga, but the entire province.”
Established in 1996 after local villagers from Manjolo and Siachilaba approached Government for assistance in terms of developing an irrigation scheme to cushion them from the adverse effects of drought, Bulawayo Kraal faced a series of challenges in terms of funding.
However, with the coming of the New Dispensation, the face of Bulawayo Kraal has changed. The revitalisation of Bulawayo Kraal is in line with President Mnangagwa’s thrust to ensure the realisation of Matabeleland North’s full economic potential in line with the devolution policy.
Chief Sikalenge, in whose jurisdiction Bulawayo Kraal falls under, said the ongoing expansion works at the irrigation scheme were a positive development for the district.
“We have Zambezi River but for a long time we failed to utilise the water from that water body. What we are witnessing at Bulawayo Kraal is a positive development and a reflection of our Government’s commitment to addressing poverty and hunger and it will transform lives in Binga,” he said.
The resuscitation of the country’s agricultural sector remains vital to improving the livelihoods of ordinary Zimbabweans and irrigation development could be the answer as climate change has affected rainfall patterns.
However, only three percent of the country’s agricultural activity is under irrigation and this has had a negative impact on output, highlighting the urgent need to put more effort in irrigation development.
The resuscitation of Bulawayo Kraal has also brought smiles to the locals.
Mrs Florence Munsaka of Manjolo said they were hoping to reap economic benefits once the irrigation scheme is fully operational as they venture into sustainable projects.
“As locals, we have pinned our hopes on the rehabilitation of Bulawayo Kraal and once it is up and running everyone will benefit and there will be employment for us so that we take care of their families, especially at such a time when we are facing starvation due to drought,” she said.
Another villager, Mr Peter Muleya said the irrigation scheme has been lying idle for a very long time despite the abundance of water in the Zambezi River.
“We are quite grateful to the Government for this gesture and it is our hope that through this project everyone will benefit. We are particularly looking at farming and if we can get small plots and there will also be a lot of employment opportunities for our children since there is an investor who has been roped in by Government to develop the project,” he said.
“The irrigation scheme will boost food security and ensure that we move from subsistence towards prosperity as there will be a lot of commercial farming activities.”
Already Government, under the Agriculture Recovery Plan, has set aside 100 000 hectares of land, which will be transformed into a greenbelt with an anticipated yield of at least 1 million tonnes of maize within the next three years.
The massive project — to be implemented at Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme in Binga, Matabeleland North, in the lowveld areas of Masvingo and Kanyemba in Mashonaland Central — will be done in phases and will boost food production and alleviate food shortages in the country largely attributed to recurrent drought.
Government is roping in the private sector in the programme. Under the programme, 100 000 hectares of virgin land will be opened up in the three identified provinces.
The programme will also help in cutting imports and accelerate the attainment of Vision 2030 goals. — @mashnets