Minister gives Arda ultimatum

The Chronicle

Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
LANDS, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka has given the Agricultural and Rural Development Agency (Arda) a four-month ultimatum to ensure all is in place at Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme in Binga or top management will be fired.

The ultimatum comes after Government awarded a tender to a South African company to redesign water supplies to feed the irrigation scheme drawing water from the Zambezi River.

Some of the irrigation scheme beneficiaries cultivating at the irrigation in Binga yesterday

Dr Masuka yesterday toured Bulawayo Kraal, among other agricultural projects in Binga District, as well as the Grain Marketing Board depot together with various players within the agriculture sector.

He said there had been so much talk about resuscitation of Bulawayo Kraal, an irrigation scheme now managed by Arda, but there has been nothing to show for it on the ground in 21 years.

Dr Masuka said irrigation structural shortcomings are to blame for the dysfunction of one of the biggest irrigation schemes in the country.

“It is largely a fault of Government that designs of the irrigation had not been done correctly and they are still wrong. They are unable to irrigate the hactarage which we want. Arda will be running that for the community. Arda chief executive officer Tinotenda Mhiko joined Arda last year and the whole Arda board management is new.

And I’m hoping to see new things at Bulawayo Kraal and if I can’t see new things by April you will know that he (CEO) will not be there,” said Dr Masuka.

“We are also getting a consultant who is going to correct the mistakes of the irrigation scheme and I’m certain that this will be up and running by March.”

He said the scheme has to take off because the community has waited for 21 years for it to operate. Dr Masuka said when Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme becomes operational, it will alleviate poverty in the largely marginalised Binga District.

“Now guided by Vision 2030, we have a rural development model that works. It must be through agriculture that we must empower ourselves out of poverty towards Vision 2030.

This is why we have worked out a successful model for these irrigation schemes as exemplified by the launch by the President of the Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme, which we are now expanding,” said Dr Masuka.

“We now have got a resident manager and we have 99 scheme participants who are paid daily for what they have worked for.

When we have harvested we deduct all costs and they become shareholders and they get a dividend upon harvesting. This is the only way that we can have inclusive development. Development that leaves no one and no place behind.”

The minister said it was pleasing that there is already 100 hectares of sorghum and another of sunflower that has been planted following good rains. It is projected that the crops could generate about $36 million.

“We can promise you that we have found a successful formula for the resuscitation of all irrigation schemes and Bulawayo Kraal is high on the list of the schemes that must be resuscitated.

I want this scheme to work and I will be back in four weeks and we will be here together to supervise this scheme to ensure we get everything right,” said the minister.

“There are other projects coming that are associated with this scheme as the chief executive officer has explained. One of them is fisheries and we will be able to do fish ponds along the line so that you get fish for nutrition as well as fish for sale.

Thank you for the patience over 20 years, but certainly we are going to assist as much as possible so that we don’t go back again.”

Dr Masuka said there might be a need to correct the Bulawayo Kraal’s name as it emerged that the actual name of the area is Bbulaayo, which was the name of a Binga village head.

“The narrative has to be right in the Second Republic. So everyone thinks that Bulawayo Kraal is where King Lobengula sought refuge, but what we are getting from the locals is that it is unrelated to that.

This area was named after a kraal head by the name Bbulaayo, but for convenience they called it Bulawayo Kraal. We will be cross-checking with the traditional leadership before we effect any official name change of the scheme. But we are now gathering this information and put things in the right context,” he said.

Dr Masuka said he held a meeting with the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube, who demanded to know the total amount needed for the scheme to be revived and Arda will soon provide Treasury with the figures.

Mr Mhiko said Arda was up to the task as resuscitation of Bulawayo Kraal would ensure rural development as envisioned by President Mnangagwa.

“It’s true that we are resuscitating the irrigation and a tender was awarded. So we are just waiting for Treasury to release funding.

We hope to finish this system by end of March. We are going to have a total of 100ha of sunflower and 100ha of sorghum this season, taking advantage of the rains, while we fix the system,” said Mr Mhiko. He said downstream industries will be created in Binga when Bulawayo Kraal is fully functional.

“Bulawayo Kraal is one of the highest priority projects at Arda under the rural development and industrialisation plan. Bulawayo Kraal is going to cause rural industrialisation in the whole of Binga.

By rural industrialisation, we are talking about value addition, beneficiation, processing and establishment of a rural service centre, banks, employment creation and development around the estate,” he said.

“And this rural industrialisation is going to cause rural development as emphasised by the minister which is basically attainment of Vision 2030. We are going to increase more land under irrigation and production.

“We are going to decentralise the  micro-processing plant for value addition here on site so that you get your cooking oil, mealie-meal and everything on site instead of going to Bulawayo to buy these things.”

Mr Mhiko said locals will also be trained to understand that farming is a serious business venture.

“We are hoping to have another big launch, bigger than what we did at Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme in this scheme. We are going to move them from subsistence farming to surplus-oriented agriculture this year,” said Mr Mhiko. – @nqotshili.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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