The Sunday News
Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Sunday News Reporter
THE Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda) is targeting an annual yield of about 9 000 tonnes of maize and 5 700 tonnes of wheat from its Antelope Irrigation Scheme in Matabeleland South Province.
Arda is expanding its Antelope estate by 400 hectares, to bring to 950 hectares land under pivot irrigation by the beginning of this summer cropping season. Production at the estate is run on a joint venture arrangement between Arda and Trek Petroleum.
Arda Trek Antelope Estate manager Mr Alec Chinyai said after the completion of the expansion project, the estate targets to harvest 10 tonnes of maize per hectare. At present about 550 hectares of land is under wheat from which the estate estimates to harvest 5 700 tonnes of the crop.
Mr Chinyai said after harvesting the wheat, the 550 hectares together with the 400 which is being cleared would be put under maize crop.
“Our target is to start planting before 2 November as soon as we finish harvesting wheat and we are on course to achieve that target.
“After the expansion project our annual target will be to harvest at least 10 tonnes of maize per hectare, which will translate to about 9 000 tonnes of maize.
“We are also targeting to harvest 5 700 tonnes of maize,” he said.
Mr Chinyai said about 750 hectares of maize which would be planted this summer cropping season would be under the Targeted Command Agriculture programme.
Targeted Command Agriculture is a new agricultural scheme by Government aimed at ensuring food self-sufficiency which targets farmers near water bodies who can individually put a minimum of 200 hectares under maize.
Over 2 000 farmers are targeted under the programme with each farmer expected to produce at least 1 000 tonnes of maize.
Meanwhile, the expansion project by Arda Trek Antelope has been met with resistance by some villagers from the area.
The villagers, mobilised by MDC-T Senator for Matobo Sithembile Mlotshwa and Zanu-PF Member of the National Assembly for Matobo South constituency Cde Soul Mahalima Ncube, have accused Arda of expanding into their territory.
Sen Mlotshwa and 25 villagers were arrested and appeared in court last Saturday after they attempted to stage a demonstration against Arda Trek Antelope while Cde Soul Mahalima got a chiding from the provincial leadership for his involvement in the resistance.
The MDC-T senator together with her 25 accomplices were remanded on free bail and are expected back in court on 19 October. Mr Chinyai explained that Arda was expanding within its boundary contrary to the claims by villagers.
He said about 150 villagers who had allocated themselves pieces of land in the estate were affected by the expansion project.
“The Arda project was pegged in 1947 and people could have forgotten because the land was lying idle for a long time.
Villagers allocated land among themselves because it was idle and that is the land we are reclaiming now.
“When the project started 150 hectares were cleared between 1949 and 1950. A further 230 hectares were cleared between 1971 and 1972. A further 150 hectares were cleared in 1984.
“There is still 2 000 hectares of untapped land which we intend to clear in future, subject to availability of funds,” he said.
The Government owned Arda Estate entered into a Private Public Partnership with Trek in a deal meant to revive the estate and increase productivity.