Zimbabwe turns to irrigation to grow country’s food basket

ZIMBABWE – The government of Zimbabwe is set to pump $48 million to rehabilitate and expand 10 major irrigation schemes in Masvingo province, Southeastern Zimbabwe under the National Accelerated Irrigation Development Programme (NAIDP) to promote food security in the country.

Finance and Economic Development Deputy Minister Clemence Chiduwa revealed that the government had already availed funding for the schemes’ rehabilitation and upon completion, irrigation services will be restored on a combined 1, 350ha, reports The Herald.

“We have 10 irrigation schemes across Masvingo that will benefit from NAIDP this year, and top on the list is Mushandike and Chilonga. At the end of the exercise, the province will have more hectarage under irrigation,” said Deputy Minister Chiduwa.

The largest chunk of the funding, $14.2 million will go towards construction of a canal from Muzhwi Dam to Mushandike Dam to augment water supply in the dam that supply the Mushandike scheme, which directly benefited 565 plot-holders before its collapse.

Operations at the 847.5ha Mushandike Irrigation Scheme stopped in August last year after Mushandike Dam, dried up owing to drought and massive siltation that forced plot holders to turn to dry-land farming.

The Chilonga scheme was allocated $6.2 million. It has not been operating since 2016 after silt submerged the pump station for the scheme in Runde River.

In other related news, Tongaat Hulett and some private players have been given the nod by Government to develop 7 000 hectares of virgin land around Manyuchi Dam for maize and sugar cane production under irrigation.

Manyuchi Dam, which was constructed in the mid-1980s, has largely remained underutilised, with its water only irrigating 2, 800ha of sugarcane plantations at Mwenezana Estates.

Government now wants Tongaat and the private players to ensure Manyuchi’s water is fully utilised in line with the on-going thrust of using all water bodies to grow food and help the nation achieve food security.

Besides promoting food security, full exploitation of the dam will create more jobs on top of the over 750 jobs.

Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Ezra Chadzamira said, “We have given Tongaat and other private players permission to expand the area under irrigation around Manyuchi to cover the 7 000ha capacity of the dam.”

“It is not only sugar that we want to be produced using Manyuchi’s water, hence we are looking for other private players to develop plans for irrigating crops such as maize,” he added.

The Masvingo provincial leadership is concerned about the underutilisation of Manyuchi Dam, at a time the province is eyeing food security through expansion of the winter maize project.

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