Govt committed to transforming agriculture through irrigation

Ndodana Sibanda shows how the center pivot works to water the wheat in Arda Jotsholo recently. (picture by Nkosizile Ndlovu)
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GOVERNMENT continues to demonstrate unwavering commitment towards strengthening the agriculture sector’s resilience to climate change by persistently pushing for the adoption of irrigation while encouraging private sector participation in the actualisation of the schema.

In a recent X (formerly twitter) post, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary Professor Obert Jiri said farmers needed irrigation infrastructure support to enable them to boost yields during prolonged dry spells.

Prof Jiri observed that irrigation development was key at every level, for instance, for Pfumvudza/Intwasa, village-youth-school business units, irrigation schemes, large-scale irrigation projects and estates.

“It is therefore critical for the country to invest in the construction of many water reservoirs such as dams and weirs to ensure water for irrigation is readily accessible,” he said.

His comments come on the heels of a recent stakeholder engagement event in Harare by Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos. The event was meant to encourage private players to invest in irrigation systems to climate-proof agricultural activities that are currently facing threats from erratic rainfall patterns.

Prof Jiri also urged farmers to work with private sector, as the country moved to ensure the irrigation thrust succeeded.

“Zvavachari Irrigation Scheme in Mberengwa District is a remarkable example of how the irrigation thrust, which is being aggressively pursued by the Government is spearheading the rural development and rural industrialisation agenda. More than 50 households are earning a living from irrigation activities,” he said in his post.

Seed Co head of agronomy Mrs Wendy Madzura chipped saying irrigation should be for everyone no matter the size of their fields – from backyard gardens to commercial farms.

“Investing in irrigation for commercial farmers using centre pivots, irrigation guns, sprinklers of different sizes and other technologies is critical in farming. As such, farmers are encouraged to seek advice before selecting their best fit,” she added.

The National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) programming targets and the Agricultural and Food Systems Transformation Strategy have set their sights on increasing the area under irrigation to 350 000ha from the current 203 000 by the year 2025.

Government is aiming to forge partnerships with the private sector, as it moves to increase the area under irrigation given. Irrigation development is capital intensive, hence the need for a holistic participation of players in the agriculture sector.

Department of Irrigation Development director, Engineer Bezel Chitsungo revealed that despite the fact that the country had skilled personnel for dam development, most of the water bodies were not being fully utilised for irrigation.

“The country has potential to irrigate up to two million hectares of land if all existing dams and those under construction are fully utilised. We are also exploring transboundary water resources such as the Zambezi River in the north and Limpopo River in the south and also unlock the potential of the Pfungwe water system and the groundwater resources, which are regarded as unexploited. This could contribute to expanding the irrigated land area,” said Eng Chitsungo.

Eng Chitsungo added that only 220 000 hectares were equipped with irrigation infrastructure out of a possible two million hectares. Out of the 220 000ha equipped with irrigation infrastructure, 203 000ha are actively working, which points towards a deficit of 20 000ha whose equipment requires attention.

Tugwi Mukosi, Manyuchi and Mazvikadeyi dams are among the dams not being fully utilised yet they could contribute 40 000, 5 000 and 7 000 hectares of land under irrigation separately.

In order to meet the ambitious targets, the Government has introduced a deliberate policy strategy under the Agricultural and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, which ropes in the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) to accelerate irrigation development.

Through this, the Government seeks to adopt a comprehensive approach to irrigation development as it moves to attain the target of 350 000 hectares by partnering with the private sector. – Herald