Local company, Dendairy, has identified key stakeholders for lucerne production in the Lowveld who are now being equipped with technical skills on transiting from dry land to irrigation farming.
The stakeholders include traditional leaders from Chilonga and Masivamela communal areas, members of the Rural District Development Committee, grassroots communities and players in the private sector.
In a statement yesterday, Dendairy said there would be no relocation of people as the project carried an out-grower component.
This means existing farmers will receive necessary inputs, technical guidance, equipment and water on a cost recovery basis for sustainability.
“From an overall perspective, the out-grower component represents a massive transformation of rural agriculture, from heavily unreliable rain fed subsistence farming to highly commercial, equipment intensive commercial irrigation agronomy.
“Our primary commitment before going full throttle on the agricultural phases of the project is to ensure that communities hosting lucerne as an industry, are taken through dialogue processes on the investment direction to ensure their support and active participation in this national development drive.
“The overall project vision is to set up multiple lucerne producing hubs throughout Zimbabwe for export markets and to compliment the national herd revival efforts being implemented in the context of NDS1,” says the statement.
The company said it was important that the community be given an opportunity to fully absorb the facts around lucerne irrigation to appreciate opportunities around the project that transform improve their livelihoods.
“Presently, our community engagement teams are on the ground, continuing with relationship building with locals in Chilonga and Masivamela as part of the project implementation process.
“The main objective of this exercise is to work with legally constituted community level development communication forums at which project facts can be unbundled and the community in turn can input on the investment programme.
“Logistical measures have been put in place to ensure that traditional leaders from areas affected by the flooding of the Runde crossing point at Chilonga, are not disadvantaged,” read the statement.
After the dialogue at leadership levels, the engagement process would cascade to the villages for accuracy in the interpretation of the project facts.
“The current community engagement programme will also facilitate commencement of trials through an initial 200-hectare lucerne irrigation field for demonstration purposes. The demonstration phase requires that farmers are selected by the communities themselves, to produce lucerne as out-growers under irrigation conditions. This approach gives the community an opportunity to experience lucerne and make comparisons with current dry land crops on total yields and earnings per hectare per year.
“Noting that this project will cause a massive shift from livelihood patterns long established under dry land subsistence farming, the demonstration phase has been packaged as a look and learn facility,” said Dendairy.
Irrigated lucerne production has been touted as an accelerator of Zimbabwe’s livestock growth plan, which is targeting a US$1,9 billion as a livestock sector contribution to the overall US$8,2 billion agriculture economy.
The investment blueprint includes the construction of a regional fodder bank around Chilonga and Masivamela to strengthen stock feed supplies and ultimately drive the lowveld livestock sector into positive performance.
With a provincial livestock population of over 1 million for cattle and 650 000 for goats, Masvingo is poised for growth through irrigation pasture development.
Lucerne is a legume which carries a crude protein content of between 18- 25 percent and is suitable as a finisher in pen fattening.
Once planted, harvesting can commence from 70 to 90 days to continue on the same vine in 28-day cycles for four to five years.