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Bulawayo's 36-year-old farming project crippled by water shortages

by Stephen Jakes
10 Apr 2022 at 13:09hrs | Views
IT  is now 36 years since the farming project was formed at the Luveve Gam Plantation and still there is no water infrastructure to irrigate the crops and vegetables especially during the winter season.

This is rendering the project more unsustainable and has led quite a number of people especially the elderly to pull out of it.

Luveve Gam Plantation farming project located in ward 15 Luveve was founded and launched sometime in 1986, with 1100 members drawn from various suburbs such as Pumula, Magwegwe, Entumbane, Mpopoma among others participating to fend for their families at the height of escalating unemployment and poverty in the city of Bulawayo. 

But various factors such as drought, distance members walk and unavailability of reliable water sources to water their crops has forced about 400 members to pull out of the project. Also lack of security for their crops had an adverse effect on their project due to rampant theft which forced many to give up farming.

The plantation was launched through the support of Bulawayo City Council  I'm 1986 and it was meant to benefit the vulnerable groups such as elders.

The project included growing multiple vegetables, keeping goats, rabbits, and chickens. However, due to water shortages, the members of the projects only grow maize during the rainy season.

For one of the members who identified herself as Sithokozile Ndlovu, the project at the start seemed to be promising to benefit them but when they ventured into it they have so far realised that they have not achieved anything, a reason which she say might have led some to pull out.

"We usually depend on rain water for seasonal crops such as maize and others. But we also wanted to grow vegetables during winter which has proved futile many times because of lack of water. In fact we have lost a lot of money in inputs which we bought and planted in the project only to reap nothing at the end due to water shortage. Even the rain season crops have failed like during this year where the rains were good from November last year to January this year but all of a sudden the heat wave struck us hard and we have lost chances of a good harvest," Ndlovu says. 

She says if they had enough boreholes and irrigation equipment they would not mind about the shortage of rains as they would be continuing to water or irrigate their crops.

Project chairperson  Thembinkosi Sibanda says the situation kept on deteriorating over the past years and the project no longer benefits the members as they are not able to grow vegetables continuously like they expected.

"When we started this project we were about 1100 and now we are 700. Many people dropped out when we started facing challenges in 2008 because they were not able to fetch water from the borehole and water their vegetables. Some dropped because they had relocated to rural areas, some died and some got sick to a point where they were not able to work on the project," he says.

"We only have one borehole here which is not enough to sustain our crops. In this project we used to do farming, keeping rabbits, chickens and cultivating mushrooms. We are no longer producing mushrooms because of water challenges."

Sibanda says the distance the members have to walk to get to the project was another factor that resulted to some members dropping from it as incidents of rape and robbery along the way occurred.

"The plantation is located far away from the members' locations. People come from as far as Pumula, Magwegwe, Entumbane, Mpopoma among other places. Many members are elders and the eldest is 90 years old so they face challenges to walk from their location to the plantation. Last year one of our members was almost raped while coming from the plantation. We have now advised our members to come in groups and avoid being raped and robbed," Sibanda says.

Sibanda says also thieves from Cowdray Park always steal the little  that they produce.

He blames unemployed young people mostly from the Cowdray Park suburbs for theft at their project adding that the fact that it is not fenced after vandalism of the fence made  it easy for the criminals to steal from it.

"Young people from the location are stealing our produce and there is nothing we can do about it. They have also vandalized the fence. Many people who steal our crops are young mothers between the ages of 21 to 27  who pounce on our project together with their husbands who protect them during theft. Also, the members of the projects steal from each other," he says.

The project members are crying foul that the First lady Auxilia Mnangagwa recently intervened in their project to assist members with inputs but the problem is that only a few were selected to benefit from her donation.

"The first lady visited the  project to see how members were fairing. Only 50 vulnerable people were selected and  the first lady then donated the inputs to them, leaving about 650 others out," says a project member who identified herself only as MaMoyo..

"We appeal to the city council to install a solar water pump system that will enable us to grow vegetables continuously.  We also ask well-wishers to chip in and provide us with fencing material to protect our crops. We are not happy that we spend a lot of our little resources on sourcing inputs but get nothing from them after farming."

Indications are that there were 256 members who were doing chicken projects but now only 20 are left and many people keep on dropping out because the project is unsustainable.

Ward 15 Councillor Febbie Msipa says she once made submissions in the council chambers but was yet to understand how the farmers can be assisted.

"What I can say is that this issue was tabled in council and I will make a follow up on how they should be assisted," Msipa says.

Source - Byo24News