Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Gwanda Correspondent
DESPITE the Covid-19 pandemic which brought many activities and projects to a standstill, farmers from Madema Irrigation Scheme in Batana Village in Gwanda have maximised production to keep their project afloat.
Members of the scheme, which covers eight hectares devised measures to ensure that they continued working while observing Covid-19 regulations. They drafted a working time table where a specific number of farmers would go to work each day. They halted physical interactions and each farmer made it a point to arrive, work on their portion of land for stipulated hours and leave.
The garden has become a reliable source of income for 57 households from the village. The farmers also have a fishery project.
Ms Eggie Mazibeli who is the chairperson of Madema Irrigation Scheme said the project started in 2007 with the assistance of Pro Africa, a non-governmental organisation. She said in 1996 Lutheran Development Services (LDS) assisted the community through construction of a dam from which they get water for their crops. She said the eight-hectare garden had maize, butternuts, groundnuts, vegetables and sweet potatoes.
“In 1996 LDS constructed a dam for us which was a source of drinking water for our animals. We later realised that we were under utilising the dam and then we came up with the idea to start a garden as we didn’t have one in our area. We started clearing land in 2007 but we didn’t have the means to fund the project.
“Pro Africa came in and assisted us with resources to establish the garden and they also assisted us with maize seed which we used at the onset of the project. Our garden started off small but we continued to expand it and introduced more crops as time went by. Pro Africa continued to assist here and there until there came a time when they decided that we were self-sufficient and could sustain our operations,” she said.
Ms Mazibeli said the Covid-19 pandemic did not derail their operations as they continued to work while observing national regulations to curb the spread of the pandemic. She said they however, faced a challenge in accessing their usual markets due to restricted movements. She said in order to capitalise on the situation they made inroads into local markets.
Ms Mazibeli said the 57 members had to ensure that a limited number of farmers went to work at the irrigation at each given time. She said each member had 13 beds which were about 40 to 50 metres long.
“The irrigation has become a reliable source of income for us as it’s where we get money to feed our families, send our children to school as well as other expenses. We mainly sell our groundnuts and maize in Gwanda Town but for the other products we usually sell them locally and supply locals in bulk who will be buying for resale.
“We received crop management training, which involves planting, spraying and maintaining the crop until it matures. We were also trained on crop selection, pricing and marketing among other issues. We continue to receive training under Agritex,” she said.
Ms Mazibeli said watering crops was a great challenge as some canals were damaged and water could not reach some parts of the garden. She said as a result they had to carry water in buckets to water crops. She said the canals needed to be repaired and a drip irrigation system should be installed to make watering of crops easier.
Ms Mazibeli said the dam which supplied their irrigation was now heavily silted and there was a need for boreholes which could be used as an alternative source of water.
The treasurer of the fishing project, Ms Edis Mazibeli said they started the project in 2018 to complement the irrigation project. She said LDS assisted them with fingerlings to start the project.
They however, did not have means to harvest the fish until a businessman who owns a boat and nets offered to assist them.
“We didn’t have a boat to use or nets and then we got into an agreement with a businessman who offered to harvest the fish and in return he would give us a 30 percent share. This partnership has been assisting us with income. Our desire is that we get a fishing permit and to have nets and a boat of our own which we can use to further our fishing project.
“Community members are able to go and fish from the dam using hooks which has assisted many families with food. Now that the rainy season has started, we need to have nets so that we can catch a large number of fish which we can sell,” she said.
The councillor for Ward 24, Bonang Mukwena said the gardening and fishing projects had assisted community members. He said farmers needed assistance with equipment so that they could maximise production. He said the dam which was constructed by LDS did not only assist community members in running their projects but was also a reliable source of water for livestock. — @DubeMatutu