By Tendai Munengwa & Bruce Chahwanda
GOVERNMENT, in conjunction with development partners, has embarked on a massive irrigation programme to revitalise 60 small-holder irrigation schemes across the country and guarantee the commercial viability of thousands of communal farmers.
This Thursday, government experts, the private sector and farmers came under one roof to institute viable mechanisms to revitalise small-holder irrigation and transform communal farmers to become commercially viable.
The Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA), which is mandated to rehabilitate 450 irrigation schemes, presented a new rural industrial revolution model that will be anchored on small irrigation development.
“This new model will deal with many challenges experienced by smallholder farmers, who, after being given machinery, sometimes do not maintain it until it collapses. This time around, we created a new business model which will be manned by business managers. This will ensure farmers are grouped, trained, given inputs and irrigation equipment to maximise production,” noted ARDA official, Kudakwashe Watetepa.
The Small-Holder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme is designed to ensure small scale farmers are empowered to transform 6 100 hectares of land into sustainable irrigation business models.
“We should put all our hands on deck to provide the much-needed expertise and mobilise funding to revitalise smallholder farmers to achieve nutritional and food security,” said a Ministry of Lands official, Simba Mupodyi.
The Small-holder Irrigation Scheme Business Management Platform feeds well into the Second Republic’s Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development, the Horticultural Growth and Recovery Plan which targets to put 350 000 hectares under irrigation by 2025.
Meanwhile, with the Expo 2020 Dubai still underway, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Masuka says the event offers an opportunity to attract more investments towards irrigation as the country seeks to reclaim its bread-basket status on the continent.
Dr Masuka is in Dubai to canvas for investment in agriculture to ensure there is maximum use of water bodies across the country.
“Climate change is real. We want to climate-proof our agriculture and be able to build 350 000 hectares for irrigation from the current 250 000 hectares. Zimbabwe is the most dammed nation with over 10 000 dams, and we are looking for investment in these areas”, he said.
Dr Masuka emphasised the need to expand investment into horticulture products that have huge demand on the international market.
“So far, there is an investment in vegetables, tea and macadamia nuts. We need to expand investment so that we can benefit mutually. We are happy that Zimbabwe was offered a platform to showcase as it re-emerges as a giant,” added Dr Masuka.
Zimbabwe has a strong agriculture base which has seen the country become food sufficient last season, owing to good rains and the climate-proof Pfumvudza/ Intwasa Programme.