The Sunday News
Michael Magoronga, Midlands Correspondent
THE Government is considering installing solar panels at irrigation schemes across the country as production was being hampered by the constant power cuts that are affecting the country.
Some crops have dried up at irrigation schemes due to lack of power to drive pumps that draw water for irrigation.
Most water bodies across the country have also dried up owing to low rainfall and rising temperatures.
This has seen First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa luring potential Chinese investors into the country to explore ways and channels on how they could help revamp the country’s irrigation sector.
Lesso Holdings Subsidiary sent a delegation to tour the country’s irrigation farms with a view of providing solutions, among them the installation of solar energy at some of the facilities.
In an interview on the sidelines of a tour of irrigation schemes in Midlands recently, Director of Irrigation in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Dr Conrad Zawe said the Chinese delegation was carrying out a feasibility study on how best solar energy could be used at the facilities.
“We are looking at how best we can migrate to using solar energy in our farms given the power cuts as a result of drying up of Kariba Dam,” he said.
He said besides power outages, water bodies were also continuously drying up.
“Water bodies across the country are drying up with each passing day. As you are aware the country has not been receiving enough rains since last year largely due to climate change. This has resulted in most water bodies that are used for irrigation drying up and making it impossible for irrigation to take place,” said Dr Zawe.
He said in most cases, the water bodies were also being neglected.
“The water bodies are also not being well maintained, allowing siltation to take place unabated. The state of our dams across the country leaves a lot to be desired as we have potential dynamites that are posing as a threat to the people as they may collapse any minute. We have a number of irrigation systems that have since stopped operations. For example, most of our Arda farms are not operating due to water challenges and power problems,” he said.
He said the ministry has since approached Zinwa to rehabilitate dams.
“Our ministry is talking to Zinwa for the maintenance of water bodies. But I am told they have also indicated lack of funding to carry out the maintenance of the water bodies,” said Dr Zawe.
Besides dwindling water levels, Dr Zawe said continued power outages owing to load shedding was also making it difficult for irrigation to be sustainable.
“It is increasingly becoming difficult for irrigation to take place as a result of continued load shedding. Most farmers are getting power for something like four hours per day, making it difficult to water the crops. Besides, the power cost is also getting out of reach for many making it difficult if not impossible for farmers to operate,” he said.
Lesso Holdings Subsidiary general manager Mr Yibao Luo, who was heading the Chinese delegation also expressed concern over the poor state of irrigation systems in the country and pledged total support.
“We have seen some good irrigations and some very bad ones. We, however, pledge to support the country so that we turn around the agriculture sector here. We are going to compile a report that we will hand over to the Government for consideration, “ said Mr Yibao.
The irrigation sector has a potential of producing about 40 000 tonnes of maize meal if they are properly functional.