|Antelope gears for winter cropping|
|Saturday, 12 May 2012 23:49|
Roberta KatungaANTELOPE irrigation scheme farmers in Maphisa have started tilling their land in preparation for winter farming despite having their electricity and water supply cut off for non- payment of Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) bill.
Farming operations at the scheme were stopped in January over an estimated US$65 000 debt to the two parastatals.
In an interview the chairperson of the scheme, Ms Portia Ndlovu, said they have since raised $4 000 and the power company has made promises to reconnect electricity in time for winter farming.
“This is a very unfortunate situation for us as farming is our livelihood and so many people depend on this scheme for various reasons,” she said.
Ms Ndlovu said members had lost approximately US$190 000 in revenue from the time operations ceased as they had planted 26 hectares of tomatoes and 40 hectares of maize which all dried up as there was no water for irrigation.
“What pains us the most are the losses the scheme incurred when electricity was cut off, all our efforts were fruitless as our tomatoes and maize wilted after we had spent money on inputs and what we were supposed to get from the sale of these crops,” she said.
Mr Raymond Sibanda who is the scheme’s secretary said they had targeted at harvesting 1 300 tonnes of tomatoes valued at $80 000 and 160 tonnes of maize valued at $40 000 and that the Grain Marketing Board had given them sugar beans which could have brought in an additional $68 000.
"GMB had given us sugar beans and fertiliser to plant on 34 hectares but we did not manage to do so because we had no water," he said.
The scheme blamed all the losses on alleged mismanagement by ARDA as they say they had loaned them 200 hectares of land and ARDA was supposed to be responsible for paying ZESA as per agreement.
"We were only told in 2010 that we had accumulated a debt with ZESA that we were supposed to pay through ARDA since we do not have an account with the power company. We tried to raise our concerns with ZESA management in 2011 but it was to no avail and the next thing electricity was cut off," said Ms Ndlovu.
The ARDA estate manager, a Mr Chinayi was not available for comment.
Maphisa Ward 19 Headman Mr Samson Nyathi said it was puzzling and they had failed to understand why the water was disconnected and how management failed to control the situation as the water from the canals used to help not only for irrigation but the community at large as well as livestock.
"There are few boreholes in this area so people and animals used to drink from those canals at Antelope and this situation has affected us all, we are facing serious water shortages," said Headman Nyathi.
The headman said the community was not only facing water shortages but starvation as well receives a low rainfall place hence people did not harvest from their fields and the scheme has always been their salvation.
"People will die of hunger, it is just terrible. This scheme has also been a source of employment for people from as far as Matopo and Kafusi in Gwanda during harvesting time so we really need something to be done as a matter of urgency," he said.
The scheme's chairperson said they were trying to engage some companies to enter into contract farming for winter wheat crop as they have no money to buy inputs.
Antelope irrigation scheme has 102 members.