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Increasing land under irrigation a top priority

THE Zimbabwe Government is targeting to increase the area under irrigation from the current 193 000ha to 350 000ha by 2025, as the country aims to boost production despite effects of climate change.

The intention is to fight the effects of climate change, with irrigation helping farmers in diversifying their operations, thereby allowing them to grow crops all year round rather than engaging in seasonal productions.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary Dr John Basera said there was need to move more towards irrigation development as it was vital for ensuring food security.

‘’This Agric-Climate Proofing Programme entails massive country-wide water harnessing and irrigation programmes targeting to resuscitate and develop up to 350 000ha under functional irrigation by 2025 from about 150 000ha in 2020,” he said.

“By 2022, the country recorded 193 000ha under functional irrigation. This thrust will present great opportunities for climate change adaptation in the agric-production space, thus giving us a chance to go for growth proper and at scale.”

Government created the Irrigation Development Alliance as a vigorous framework that seeks to promote investment in irrigation expansion by supporting partnerships between financial institutions, irrigation companies and farmers.

The programme is part of Government efforts to create an enabling environment for accelerated growth through enhancing irrigation development’s viability and effectiveness to build the country’s resilience to vulnerabilities and shocks that come as a result of climate change.

Farmers have called on the Government to increase investment in micro-irrigation facilities for smallholder farmers to ensure household and national food security.

The demands will ensure that the rain fed crops will not be affected by dry spells and farming will progress during both summer and winter time.

Farmers said irrigation schemes were critical for smallholder farmers to improve agricultural production, adding that Government’s move to introduce the system was greatly appreciated.

A Chinhoyi farmer, Mr Larry Muenza, said his crop, which was under irrigation, was doing well.

“We thank the Government for availing irrigation facilities. In the summer season we can continue with farming, we see the difference with those farmers without irrigation,” he said.

Mr Taurai Mangisi of Katawa in Raffingora said because of climate change, rainfall patterns were no longer predictable and it was risky to depend on rain-fed agriculture.

“Some of us have been on the land for many years and we cannot be spoon-fed all the time. We ask for loan facilities where we can get irrigation equipment and pay in instalments,” he said.

Mrs Tamari of Maheu farm in Banket said she was banking on her Pfumvudza/Intwasa crops.

“We have a water source near our farm, but we do not have irrigation equipment. If we get an intervention we will be able to increase production even during winter,” she said.

Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Trust Mrs Depinah Nkomo said many women farmers did not have irrigation facilities and urged the Government to invest in micro irrigation facilities.

“If every woman can have one hectare under irrigation, we will be able to boost production of earnings from agriculture. We have the land and zeal to farm, but lack of irrigation facilities is affecting us. With irrigation we can grow different types of crops throughout the year and increase profits.”

Government, under the Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development programme, has started resuscitating communal irrigation schemes nationwide.

In a recent interview, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka said the irrigation will transform livelihoods and many households that are close to the irrigation scheme.

However, this can only be achieved by focusing on improved production and productivity which can only be guaranteed if people take farming as a business.

Increased agricultural production and productivity will in turn, enhance income, increase opportunities for value addition and the development of agribusiness value chains.

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