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Government to repossess underutilised irrigation schemes

by Staff reporter
16 Jan 2021 at 07:14hrs | Views
GOVERNMENT has come up with a Statutory Instrument that will see it repossessing underutilised land at irrigation schemes. The SI, which is expected to be gazetted soon, will result in members of irrigation schemes who fail to revive and turn them into productive farms being booted out and replaced by farmers with capacity and potential.

Government has set aside $57 million for the rehabilitation of existing irrigation schemes across the country and will not start new irrigation schemes. Already, Government is implementing the use it or lose it policy where farmers who are not using their farms risk having them repossessed or reduced in size.

Last year, Government also instructed all beneficiaries of the land reform programme to submit mandatory production returns on their farms as it moves to ensure optimum land utilisation and productivity.

The Government gave a January 31 deadline for farmers to submit the production return reports or risk losing the farms. A process identifying multiple ownerships, abandoned farms, derelict farms and underutilised farms so that they can be redistributed is also underway.

Productive farms that exceed the stipulated farm sizes of 500 hectares shall be spared in the farm downsizing and land redistribution exercise.

There are more than 200 000 people on the farm waiting list in all provinces.

In an interview on the sidelines of the tour of Insukamini Irrigation Scheme in Lower Gweru on Wednesday, Lands, Agriculture, Water, and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said the use it or lose it policy is extending to irrigation schemes.

"The Government has come up with a Statutory Instrument on irrigable land that will see it repossessing underutilised land in irrigation schemes. The pieces of land will be reallocated to those showing capacity and potential," said Dr Masuka.

Dr Masuka said at every scheme, they are looking at viability and productivity adding that once they rehabilitate an irrigation scheme, members should take it upon themselves to make sure they make it sustainable.

"There is about $57 million that has been set aside to revive the existing irrigation schemes across the country. What this means is that we are not going to come up with new schemes but rather work on the existing ones. What therefore this means is that those on the existing schemes and are failing to be productive will be moved out and we put in new farmers who are serious to turn farming into a business so that agricultural production can rise and play a pivotal role in the attainment of an upper middle-income economy by 2030," he said.

Dr Masuka commended farmers who had increased productivity, which he said was the key to economic development. He commended Insukamini Irrigation Scheme for being productive. The irrigation scheme which has 150 members is one of the best performing in the country. The irrigation scheme scooped the first prize at the 2019 National Irrigation Competition, winning $30 000, a trophy and seed maize from various seed companies.

"Anyone who is on a scheme like this is privileged and these members are privileged because there are many more Zimbabweans who do not have this privilege so if you are privileged you must convert this privilege to improve productivity yield per hectare. Should we find that you are reluctant to improve production, productivity and profitability, we will evoke the SI called irrigable land to evict you from the scheme and invite so many other Zimbabweans who want to be involved in this privilege," he said.

Dr Masuka said the Government will transform more than 370 000 farmers into viable agricultural entrepreneurs. He said Government envisions transforming the 18 000 A2 farmers to become agricultural entrepreneurs and their farms to become viable businesses by 2025.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said the attainment of Vision 2030 can only be achieved if the country is food secure. He said Treasury will ensure that funds are availed on time for inputs to get to the farmers early.

Source - the herald