Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Matabeleland South Bureau Chief
FROM being just a bare piece of land a few months ago, Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme has evolved into a productive tract of land raising hopes of the community.
The irrigation scheme, which had remained a pipe dream for 87 years, finally came to life in June when the farmers planted wheat crop, which was their first ever crop.
They successfully harvested the crop which they supplied to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), although they failed to meet their set target due to late planting.
The farmers are set to start land preparation for summer cropping soon. They are targeting to put 45 hectares under maize. While the farmers did not meet their winter wheat target, the experience has been a learning curve for them.
The scheme has 200 hectares of arable land. Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme, which is being managed by the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda), is set to transform subsistence agriculture at household level into commercial agriculture as part of rural development and industrialisation.
The scheme has been established as part of an integrated business model that is being replicated across all provinces in the country under the National Food Security Strategy. President Mnangagwa launched the pilot project at Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme late last year.
Last year in September, Government channelled $177 million towards the establishment of Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme as part of its accelerated efforts to revitalise irrigation schemes to ensure food security.
The funds were used to develop infrastructure such as installation of water pipes and pumps and purchase of a centre pivot.
Farmers at Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme, which was first mooted in 1935, also received a $20 million loan through the Land Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe (LADBZ) for land preparation and planting. Government introduced LADBZ last year to drive agriculture growth through the provision of affordable financing to farmers.
The irrigation scheme has 157 farmers from six villages in Ward 6.
The chairman of Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme, Mr Ndabezinhle Nyoni said the farmers were eager to start planting their maize seed. He said they had already received inputs from the Government. Mr Nyoni said they were in the process of securing tractors for their planting process.
“We’re glad that we successfully made it through the winter planting season. We were able to harvest a significant amount of yield which we supplied to the GMB. Our irrigation scheme is now productive and for the summer cropping, we want to maximise our production. Our irrigation scheme has a total of 200 hectares of arable land and it’s our wish that we get capacitated so that we can produce on the entire land,” he said.
Mr Nyoni added: “We need farming machinery such as tractors and centre pivots to help maximise our production. Members of the irrigation scheme are raring to go and once we’re well resourced, we can turn our area into a green belt.”
“As you can see, a dream of so many years has finally come true. A few months back we were preparing land not knowing whether our efforts would yield much fruit. This has all been possible through the Government’s efforts to improve our livelihoods as rural communities,” he said.
A farmer at the irrigation scheme, Ms Honour Ndlovu (61) said it was a relief to see that a portion of a land which had lay bare for such a long time was finally productive. She said the farmers would realise significant income that will improve their standard of living.
Ms Ndlovu said as a community, they had waited for the project to kickstart for a long time and now that it had, they were eager to see it succeeding. She said it felt like a dream when work at the irrigation scheme started after an 87 year long wait. Ms Ndlovu said the farmers worked tirelessly to transform the once bare land into a green belt.
“Our story as Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme farmers is a clear indication that unity and hard work pay. We worked tirelessly to meet the deadline and we managed. In June the land was bare and within a few months it was green with wheat crop and then brown with wheat that was ready for harvesting. Soon our scheme will be bright green with a maize crop,” she said.
Mr Edward Sithole (68) said he was delighted to have lived to see Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme become a reality. He said there was no going back for the community as they will work tirelessly to maintain good production at the scheme.
Mr Sithole said the project would solve many problems which the community has been experiencing for a very long time.
“Whenever I look at the scheme, I know that our hunger and poverty challenges will be a thing of the past. Our children will get employment as the irrigation scheme grows and production is escalated. We’ll soon be feeding the entire community of Gwanda,” he said.
Government, working with various partners, is rehabilitating irrigation schemes that have been lying idle in Matabeleland South Province and establishing new ones in order to improve food and nutrition security and ensure the attainment of Vision 2030.
Government is targeting to rehabilitate and develop 350 000 hectares of land by 2025 across the country to safeguard the country against the negative effects of climate change and ensure food security.
The Second Republic is prioritising the revival of the agricultural sector.
A number of irrigations that had been lying idle in the province have been revived while some that were being underutilised have been capacitated and expanded.
Government has also rolled out various agricultural schemes meant to transform subsistence agriculture at household level into commercial agriculture.
Managers have also been deployed to irrigation schemes across the country to maximise production thereby ensuring food security and nutrition. — @DubeMatutu