Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
FARMERS at one of the country’s oldest irrigation schemes, Umzinyathini in Matabeleland South Province are facing an uncertain business future due to water shortages as its water source is the Umzingwane Dam whose levels have gone down.
The dam also supplies water to Bulawayo. Umzinyathini Irrigation Scheme chairman Mr Omrie Ncube said the Bulawayo City Council has started rationing water which is supplied to the scheme and this has affected farming.
The irrigation scheme is subjected to water rationing by the local authority in the event of a massive drop in water levels at Umzingwane Dam. The 81-acre irrigation scheme started operating in 1965 and is home to 78 members drawn from surrounding villages in Umzingwane District.
“This year water levels at Umzingwane Dam have dropped drastically and for the umpteenth time our cropping activities are going to be affected and we will be watering once after every two weeks. We are not begrudging the Bulawayo City Council for introducing water-shedding because we are aware the dam is running dry.
“The irrigating regime, which we will be subjected to, will see our crops wilting before maturing especially our horticultural produce and maize which is at various stages of growth. Luckily our wheat will be ready in three weeks’ time,” said Mr Ncube.
Agritex Matabeleland South provincial officer Mr Judia Ncube said there was a need for Umzinyathini Irrigation Scheme’s members to seek an alternative water source to address perennial shortages.
“As Agritex it’s obvious we need production at the scheme and if there is no water there is no production that can be achieved.
We are quite aware that there is an arrangement, which the scheme reached with the Bulawayo City Council whereby they are entitled to a quota.
“However, my advice is for them to seek an alternative water source in the form of boreholes to fall to once the dam’s water capacity dwindles, this way reliance on the dam will be minimum,” said Mr Ncube.
Although Umzinyathini Irrigation Scheme started operating 51 years ago it was to be rehabilitated through a collaborative effort between the Government and World Vision with the support from the European Union in 2010.