INJECTION of $18 million by Japan into the rehabilitation and modernisation of Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme is set to increase productivity manifold as it will improve water conveyance efficiency, strengthen technical services and scheme management.
Nyakomba is one of the most critical schemes in the country established with support from Japan (1997 to 2000) – but had suffered from a chronic lack of maintenance following flood damages of 2006 that resulted in pumps and canal networks failing to deliver sufficient irrigation water.
Crop yields and farmer incomes had thus fallen, exacerbating rural poverty in the dry Nyanga North area.
The Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme Phase 2 Expansion Project includes the construction of pumping facilities, improving water level control, water distribution and flow measurement by building new canal structures, modifying existing ones and lining irrigation canals; farm pond, replacement and repairing of existing pumps and flood protection structures for pump stations for Blocks B, C and D that were damaged by floods in 2006.
It encompasses new irrigation infrastructure for an additional 146 hectares for Block A, which had stalled for years due to financial limitations.
Block A will benefit 230 farmers, bringing the total number of beneficiaries for the entire Nyakomba facility to 861.
The Department of Irrigation, with the technical partnership from the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) is involved in the extensive irrigation infrastructural rehabilitation and development.
Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Yoshi Hiraish, has toured the scheme and expressed readiness to accelerate the rehabilitation of broken down infrastructure and expansion of the smallholder scheme.
Mr Hiraish said the expansion was a milestone development as water pumps and other irrigation infrastructure would be fully rehabilitated.
Konoike, of Japan and Masimba are the contractors involved in comprehensive rehabilitation and modernisation.
Expansion works will stretch for two years.
Engineer Tendai Chimunhu said the Japanese intervention – which include expansion of Block A and revamping of irrigation systems at Blocks B, C and D – that measures 430 hectares would leverage socio-economic life of vulnerable rural population affected by worsening vagaries of weather.
“The overnight storage dam for Block A has been completed and the casting of the super structure for the pump station is in progress. On Block D, the contractors are excavating a new pump station to replace the existing one which is vulnerable to flooding. The new site will not be affected by floods. Work on Block B involves construction of a flood protection wall around the existing pump station,” said Eng Chimunhu.
Japanese experts are training 28 farmers on maintenance and repair operations, while some development agencies are developing a commercial mentality among farmers and linking them to lucrative markets.
Block B chairperson Mr Tambudzai Manyau said major challenges confronting the scheme were constantly breaking down of old pumps, vandalised canals and lack of market.
“This is a positive development because this region is dry and rain-fed agriculture is not possible. We are optimistic that a modern Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme will turn around our fortunes. The living standards for the communal families of Nyakomba will improve, and, additionally this is one way of creating rural employment,” said Mr Manyau.
Chairperson of Block D Mr Tendai Chiwandandebvu said the installation of new efficient pumps would reduce electricity costs.
“The existing pumps consume a lot of electricity, but the water output is very poor.
They are not efficient and this affected the potential irrigation and yield. We are forced to work at night when electricity charges are low. We do not irrigate during the day, it’s unsustainable,” said Mr Chiwandandebvu.
Mr Chiwandandebvu added that irrigation inefficiency was forcing some farmers to quit.
The farmers are into maize, beans, peas, Tabasco chilli, tomatoes, paprika, wheat and horticultural production.