Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
MEMBERS of Pot Bury Irrigation Scheme in the Mbalabala area of Umzingwane District, Matabeleland South are in despair as their prospects of salvaging anything from their wheat crop have all but vanished after thieves stole electricity cables in the area, cutting power supplies to their water pump a month ago.
The 35-hectare irrigation scheme, established in 2000 is home to 20 members from the surrounding villages of Pot Bury, Sweath I and II, Nyema and Malilangwe in Ward 20, most of whom were resettled under the Government’s Land Reform Programme. It is one of the many schemes dotted across the country that benefited under the Command Winter Wheat Programme this year.
Its members managed to plant 10 hectares of wheat after being allocated all the requisite inputs under the Government’s programme.
However, with the crop at soft dough stage, which is the early stage of maturity, thieves stole a four-kilometre stretch of electricity cabling culminating in the cutting of power supplies to the water pump used for pumping the precious liquid to the scheme.
Pot Bury Irrigation Scheme secretary Mrs Farai Nkomo said members were already pondering and grappling on how they will repay the inputs obtained through the Command Winter Wheat Programme as the crop is now at an advanced stage of wilting due to lack of water.
“We were allocated seed, fertilisers and diesel under the Command Programme but as it is we don’t know how we are going to repay these inputs as per our agreement with Government. We were expecting to harvest about 50 tonnes from a targeted hectarage of five tonnes per hectare.
“As the situation stands, we are not going to realise anything and rodents have even started eating part of the crop which is on the verge of drying. We were anticipating using part of the cash we would get from selling the wheat to the Grain Marketing Board to pay off some of our outstanding arrears,” she said.
Mrs Nkomo said efforts were made to alert relevant stakeholders on the predicament that had befallen the scheme but the situation was still to be rectified.
“We made a report to Zesa but we were told that it did not have the appropriate cables and we are even looking for a generator to hire so as to power our water pump but all efforts have been in vain,” she said.
The irrigation scheme was also allocated inputs under the Command Agriculture’s Special Maize Programme last season and managed to harvest 40 tonnes of maize after cropping 20 hectares.
“We managed to deliver 27,5 tonnes of maize from our last season’s harvest and channelled 12,5 tonnes towards improving household food security at our homes. We managed to pay off some of our arrears with the money we got for deliveries at GMB,” said Mrs Nkomo.
In 2013 the Pot Bury Irrigation was part of numerous cropping enterprises that benefited machinery by the Government under Brazil’s More Food for Africa loan facility. The scheme was allocated a hose reel, tractor, planter, disc harrow six snap-back sprays and a water pump.
“If we weren’t mechanised by the Government this scheme would have long collapsed due to lack of machinery,” said Mrs Nkomo.
Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (Agritex) Matabeleland South provincial officer, Mr Masauso Mawocha said prospects of a harvest at Pot Bury Irrigation Scheme were precarious.
“I led a sub national JOC (Joint Operations Command) on a visit there (Pot Bury Irrigation) after having visited the scheme a week earlier. Part of the crop is almost a write-off and the survival of the other part is about at 50 percent. The reason we took JOC there was to ensure that this committee sees for itself that when we make reports the situations will be really alarming.
“That community is one that has been very committed with regards to Command Agriculture and last season it managed a good harvest under the Special Maize Programme and were looking forward to offset their inputs loan from what they would have realised from delivering their wheat to the GMB and thus we are really saddened by this development,” said Mr Mawocha.
He took a swipe at Zesa for frustrating efforts by farmers to enhance their agricultural enterprises through its failure to expeditiously attend to faults.
Contacted for a comment on Wednesday, Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company Western Region general manager Engineer Chinaka acknowledged receiving a report of an electricity fault due to theft of cables but hinted that the situation was rectified two weeks ago.
However, an inquiry by Sunday News Business revealed that the electrical cables were yet to be restored.
“When farmers face challenges we usually write to the Command Centre detailing and stating the particular challenges the farmers might have faced to ensure that they are given ample time to repay and after all, this programme has flexible and friendly payment plans,” said Mr Mawocha.
A total of 1082,1 hectares was cropped under winter wheat this year with Agriculture and Rural Development Authority (Arda)’s Antelope Estate in Kezi accounting for the largest hectarage with 668 hectares. -@DNsingo