Mashudu Netsianda in Binga
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.
Speaking during a tour of Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga said the programme, which is expected to run till 2023, is key in terms of investing in food security and will ensure that the country preserves foreign currency by reducing the food import bill.
“Government proposes to create a maize belt in the lowveld areas of Masvingo, Bulawayo Kraal and Kanyemba through the Agriculture Recovery Plan where the country will be able to do two maize cycles per year under irrigation,” he said
“I am glad that land clearance has commenced at Bulawayo Kraal and corporate farming will be promoted.”
The VP said Government is eager to incentivise the private sector so that they consider seriously investing in the envisaged greenbelt project.
“Under the Agriculture Recovery Plan, it is envisaged that they will be opening up of 100 000 hectares of land in the first three years to 2023. By 2023, the first phase is envisaged to produce up to 1 million metric tonnes of grain targeting to satisfy industrial needs as well as exports,” he said.
Under the second phase of the greenbelt project, Government is targeting citrus plantation, macadamia and pecan nuts.
VP Chiwenga said Government is encouraging smart partnership with the corporate sector.
At Bulawayo Kraal, Arda has entered into a joint venture with a local private company to put 15 000 hectares of land under food crops, export crops and crocodile farming.
Government has since directed Arda and its Investment partners to develop 400 hectares at Bulawayo Kraal and take over installed equipment as well as assuming the debt/loan component.
Arda will enter into a 25-year concession agreement with one of the investors at Bulawayo Kraal, creating a guided core estate and in grower and out grower scheme.
“The ministry will be responsible for project land allocation and overall supervision of policy guidance on the project. The investor will raise capital for the project which shall be a combination of equity and debt and development of the entire 15000 hectares of row crops and citrus as well as the installation of centre pivot irrigation scheme,” said VP Chiwenga.
So far 200 hectares of land, which have been cleared at Bulawayo Kraal have put under white sorghum with 965 pipes worth $25 million for the 4km pipeline to the night storage dam having been procured for the project, including farming inputs.
VP Chiwenga said value addition facilities and production of value-added products for both local and export trading will be established at Bulawayo Kraal.
Under the rural development programmes, Arda will also implement fisheries and crocodile farming projects in the Zambezi River for the benefit of the local communities.
Arda will also engage a separate partner who will work concurrently in the implementation of the project. The fisheries project will be supported under the agricultural revolving fund.
Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi, who was also part of VP Chiwenga’s delegation, assured farmers in Binga that his ministry prioritised the Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme project. He said his ministry will ensure that there’s unlimited distribution of power in the district.
“Binga is one of our priority areas in terms of development. Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme symbolises the rise of giant. I want to assure you that as minister in charge of power I will make sure there is unlimited distribution of power at Bulawayo Kraal because we want to ensure that this project is a success,” he said.
Bulawayo Kraal was 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. — @mashnets