Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
TWO of Bubi District’s communal irrigation schemes in Matabeleland North Province are faced with different predicaments which have affected their productivity.
The 100-hectare Bona Irrigation Scheme, one of the district’s most celebrated agricultural entities largely due to its formation by farmers who benefited under the Government’s land reform, is still to take off two years down the line.
Most of the work at the irrigation scheme has been completed and to add to that it was one of the many that got irrigation equipment under Brazil’s More Food Africa programme two years ago.
However, its members are hesitant to start cropping activities due to lack of a fence to secure their scheme.
The 45-hectare Pollards-Ilamba Irrigation Scheme home to 108 farmers, mostly elderly women and widows although it started cropping activities two years ago, its members are failing to effectively utilise the scheme and realise potential yields due to a poor water distribution system.
Bona chairperson Mr Vote Ndlovu said although most of the work at the scheme was completed its members are hesitant to start cropping preparations due to lack of a fence.
“All the outstanding work at the scheme has been completed and we are only left with having our field fenced and we understand the company contracted to deliver the wire is the one delaying to do so. We did a test run of the Centre Pivot Irrigation System and it’s working,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He said plans are underway to put maize in 50 hectares under the Government’s Command Agriculture Programme.
“We are looking forward to crop 50 hectares of maize under Command Agriculture. We would have preferred putting 60 hectares but part of the field is rocky.
“We approached the team responsible for the distribution of inputs under the Command Agriculture and they said we should first of all erect a fence for them to include us as beneficiaries,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He said the scheme’s members have since approached the Irrigation Department to convince the Command Agriculture Programme to allocate them inputs.
“However, our membership continues to dwindle and we are now 53 from 80 as some of our members have left while we had to dismiss some for flouting the constitution through failure to pay subscriptions and absenteeism from duty.
“We however, have some of those whom we dismissed that are making an effort to come back using the influence of the councillor. These people are now realising that the project has been completed and will soon be operating thus they are using unorthodox means to get re-admitted,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Pollards-Ilamba Irrigation Scheme treasurer Mrs Ottilia Mpofu said members of the agricultural enterprise are still to realise any meaningful returns due to a poor irrigation system.
“We have sufficient water supply from the Pollards Dam but the distribution of water through our canals is very poor and has impacted negatively on our production.
“We are still to see if this venture is lucrative as a business but of course we have managed to sell a few produce and to ensure household food security,” said Mrs Mpofu.
The irrigation scheme cropped wheat under the Command Agriculture Programme and has already done its land preparation to crop maize under the same scheme.
“We cropped 11 hectares of wheat under Command Agriculture but most of it was destroyed by the rains before we could harvest. We understand there is one combine harvester which is also used in other districts in the province and as such it delayed to reach us.
“We managed to harvest 31 tonnes but we are still to receive our payment from the Grain Marketing Board. We have already done land preparation for maize and received our fuel allocation but we are yet to receive other inputs,” said Mrs Mpofu.
Matabeleland North Department of Irrigation provincial chief Engineer Charles Makhula acknowledged the challenges facing the two irrigation schemes but hinted that they were trivial to hamper production.
“At Bona the contractor who had been contracted to drill and connect the boreholes didn’t do his work properly and had to redo and now the problem has been rectified. The only problem left is that the contractor who is supposed to supply the fence hasn’t delivered.
“However, the non-availability of a fence shouldn’t stop the scheme’s members from embarking on cropping activities. They should be prepared to guard and secure their crop while waiting for the fence. We are actually encouraging them to register for the Command Agriculture Programme,” said Eng Makhula.
He said members of Pollards-Ilamba Irrigation Scheme should not be crying foul about poor water distribution system on their scheme as they are the ones that are disregarding the directives and recommendations given to them by engineers.