Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Chronicle Reporter
FARMERS at Artherstone Irrigation Scheme in Insiza District have established a milling plant where they are producing mealie-meal and selling it to communities.
The farmers who are also growing lucerne, a fodder crop are set to start processing it at the milling plant. The processed lucerne will be sold to farmers across the country.
Artherstone is one of the large-scale producers of fodder in Matabeleland South province. The irrigation scheme which had been lying idle for about a decade was recently revived after local farmers partnered with farmers based in Cape Town in South Africa.
The investor came in with resources and equipment. The scheme has 50 hectares under irrigation.
The farmers are operating under the trade name CapeZim.
One of the farmers operating at the scheme Mr Zenzo Jele said they started milling maize in May. He said at the moment they were producing 10kg bags of mealie-meal.
Mr Jele said four people had been employed to operate the milling plant.
“As farmers operating at Artherstone Irrigation Scheme we have expanded our operations and we are now milling mealie-meal that we are producing at the irrigation scheme. We started milling in May at our milling plant at West Nicholson Business Centre. Our partner CapeZim assisted us with milling machines. For mealie-meal we have two machines,” he said.
“We also have three machines at the plant which we will soon use to process lucerne. We are processing 10kg bags of mealie-meal which we are selling to community members and also businesspeople in the area. We will soon be introducing 20kg and 50kg bags as well.”
He said they were relieved that the irrigation scheme was now functional and they hoped to increase the area under irrigation.
“We have 800 hectares of irrigable land at the scheme and all along we have been failing to fully utilise the land because of resource constraints. We were farming on a small portion of land mainly for our families to eat and not for business purposes. Our operations have now gained momentum and we want to ensure that we irrigate as much land as possible,” said Mr Jele.
He said plans were underway to introduce more crops as they expanded the hectarage at the farm.
Another farmer operating at the irrigation scheme, Mr Malachi Nkomo, said he was excited about the opportunities which have been presented by the partnership with CapeZim. He said they wanted to develop Artherstone Irrigation Scheme until it became a breadbasket of the province and a renowned supplier of food across the nation.
Mr Nkomo expressed gratitude to Government for affording indigenous people an opportunity to become productive through programmes such as the land reform programme.
The irrigation scheme, which is mainly focusing on fodder production, has 25 hectares under lucerne.
Fodder production has been identified as one of the major ways to boost the national herd as it will help ensure that farmers have access to highly nutritive stockfeed at affordable costs.
Lucerne is a resilient perennial legume that is grown for grazing and hay forage in many countries around the world. It is high in protein which makes it ideal for stockfeed. It is planted once in seven years and during the course of the time farmers will be just harvesting it.
President Mnangagwa launched the Presidential Livestock Scheme as part of efforts to grow the livestock sub-sector. Under the scheme farmers are receiving legume seeds, fertilisers and forage sorghum among other inputs.
The scheme falls under the Livestock Growth Plan, which is part of the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy that is expected to turn agriculture into an US$8,2 billion industry by 2025 and contribute towards the achievement of Vision 2030.- @DubeMatutu.