Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
THE Government has started its accelerated irrigation infrastructure development programme aimed at putting in place 200 hectares per district under irrigation annually over the next 10 years as the country forges ahead to be food self-sufficient.
Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Davis Marapira said the programme to develop and rehabilitate irrigation infrastructure to improve productivity on farms all year round had started.
“Preparations for the accelerated irrigation infrastructure development programme have started. The purpose of this programme is to mitigate against the effects of climate change while at the same time we want to promote horticultural production so as to enhance our exports,” said Dep Minister Marapira.
He said the programme would play a pivotal role in increasing the country’s yield while also improving its food security.
“It (programme) also stands to give farmers an opportunity to grow a wide range of crops throughout the year while at the same time irrigation guarantees enhanced yields per hectare,” said Dep Minister Marapira.
The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement was allocated $52,1 million in the 2018 National Budget proposals for irrigation rehabilitation and development, targeting at least 200 hectares per district to be implemented annually over the next 10 years.
Matabeleland North Province Department of Irrigation Chief Engineer Charles Makhula said preparations for the programme had begun in his area of jurisdiction.
“As Matabeleland North we are starting with Binga, Umguza and Lupane meaning we will be implementing those three first. In Binga we are at an advanced stage because the programme falls under Phase II of Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme and we are targeting 180 hectares.
“In Lupane for the Bubi-Lupane scheme we are targeting 180 hectares. In Umguza we are targeting 140 hectares. Tenders have been flighted and we are waiting for them to be awarded to winning bidders to carry out their work. In 10 years each district should be having 2 000 hectares under irrigation,” said Eng Makhula.
He said a feasibility study would be carried out in the other three districts to identify irrigable land.
“We will make feasibility studies on the other four districts, these are Tsholotsho, Bubi, Nkayi and Hwange by mid next year. The challenge we have in those districts is unavailability of large water sources. As with Nkayi we are still deliberating on exploiting underground water from the banks of the Shangani River,” said Eng Makhula.
Acting Matabeleland South provincial irrigation officer Engineer Shepard Mupotegwa said preparations for the irrigation development programme were underway.
“We have a team which is preparing the tender documents in Harare as we speak. In 2018 we are targeting putting an initial target of 150 hectares under irrigation in Gwanda out of a possible 300 hectares, in Insiza we are looking at 400 hectares while in Matobo we are looking forward to putting 200 hectares. Thereafter our target as we prepare for tendering is to do 200 hectares in Mangwe as well as 200 hectares at Zhove in Beitbridge though the area has a potential of 2 000 hectares,” said Eng Mupotegwa.
He said the performance of irrigation schemes in Matabeleland South over the years has been affected by obsolete infrastructure and rampant power cuts.
“Most of the schemes in the province have mainly been affected by issues such as old infrastructure which was and is due for replacement as well as a reliable market to sell their produce while at the same time most of them have been struggling to pay their electricity bills which are being charged at commercial rates, a situation which has seen most of them having their power supply constantly cut,” said Eng Mupotegwa.