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80-year Mtshabezi dream comes to life

by Staff reporter
17 Jun 2022 at 08:25hrs | Views
MTSHABEZI Irrigation Scheme in Gwanda District, Matabeleland South, had been a pipe dream for over 80 years, but is now up and running, as has become the norm under the Second Republic.

Last year in September, Government channelled $177 million towards the establishment of the 200-hectare irrigation scheme as part of its accelerated efforts to revitalise irrigation schemes to ensure food security.

The funds were used to develop infrastructure development such as installation of water pipes and pumps and purchase of a centre pivot.

Farmers at Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme, which was first mooted in 1935, have also received a $20 million loan through the Land Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe (LADBZ) for land preparation and planting. Government launched the LADBZ last year to drive agriculture growth through the provision of affordable financing to farmers.

The financial institution supports the overall agrarian transformation process to expand the provision of agriculture and rural finance service across the entire agricultural value chain.

Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme farmers have used part of the $20 million to hire graders and tractors for land preparation. A manager has been seconded from the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) to help farmers at the scheme.

The farmers have also received inputs which comprise seed and fertilisers under the Presidential Input Scheme. They received 7 tonnes of seed, 17 tonnes of Compound D fertiliser and 15 tonnes of top dressing.

Government, working with various partners, is rehabilitating irrigation schemes that have been lying idle in Matabeleland South Province and establishing new ones to improve food and nutrition security and ensure the attainment of Vision 2030.

Government is targeting to rehabilitate and develop 350 000 hectares of land by 2025 to safeguard the country against the negative effects of climate change and ensure food security.

The Second Republic is prioritising the revival of the agricultural sector.

A number of irrigation schemes that have been lying idle in the province have been revived while some that were being underutilised have been capacitated and expanded.

Government has also rolled out various agricultural schemes meant to transform subsistence agriculture at household level into commercial agriculture.

Managers have also been deployed to irrigation schemes across the country to maximise production thereby ensuring food security and nutrition.

Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme which had remained a pipe dream for the community for the past 87 years is set to improve livelihoods.

The irrigation scheme has 157 farmers from six villages in Ward 6.

Farmers are set to plant 50 hectares of winter wheat at the irrigation scheme and land preparation is currently underway.
The chairman of Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme, Mr Ndabezinhle Nyoni said farmers were working in groups to quickly clear the land while tractors were also doing their part.

"We understand that in order for us to benefit we first have to produce and we are working on ensuring that we maximise our production. Our project is just starting and going forward we want to increase our hectarage. We also wish to buy our own equipment so that we don't have to rely on renting.

"In order for us to start working we received a loan and after paying up the loan we will share the dividends as farmers. We won't spend all the money as we want to set aside some proceeds towards sustaining our scheme. We don't want to be beggars forever but we want to be able to sustain our operations. Government has empowered us and we want to fully utilise this opportunity," said Mr Nyoni.

He said they will sell their wheat to the Grain Marketing Board and then the loan will be paid back to the bank through a stop order.

Mr Nyoni said they were being assisted by Arda and Agritex to ensure that their business venture was a success.

He said farmers were grateful that Government had finally made their dream of many years a reality.

"Our elders told us that they came up with the idea to start this irrigation in 1935 but it never materialised. 87 years later Government has come in to ensure that this dream becomes a reality and we are grateful," Mr Nyoni said.

A farmer at the irrigation scheme, Mrs Prudence Ncube from Mtshazo Village, said it was a relief that the irrigation scheme was now operational.

She said they have received training on how to run their farming project as a business. Mrs Ncube said they cannot wait to harvest their first crop. She said they will now have means to sustain their families.

"It felt like a dream when the works at the irrigation scheme started in September last year. We thought work would run for a short while and then be abandoned but here we are today getting ready to plant our first crop and from here nothing will stop us," she said.

Mtshazo village head, Mr Denver Sithole said hunger will now be a thing of the past following the establishment of the irrigation scheme. He said neighbouring villagers would also benefit as they will now have a source to buy food from.

Arda Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme manager, Mr Sindiso Mlalazi said the farmers were working towards completing the planting process.

He said they expect a targeted output of 4 tonnes per hectare.

"Preparation of land is underway and we will then start planting. We are working at a fast pace so that the planting process can be completed by June 20. We are already behind in terms of planting and we want to ensure that we capitalise on lost time. The farmers are on board and they are excited to make this a success," he said.

Mr Mlalazi said a centre pivot will be used to irrigate the crops. He said three other centre pivots were needed so that the entire 200 hectares of the irrigation scheme can be functional.

Matabeleland South provincial agricultural officer Mr Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu (left)

Matabeleland South acting provincial agricultural director rural development services, Mr Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu said the new irrigation scheme will go a long way in ensuring food security in the province. He said irrigation schemes were fast developing in the province following intervention from Government and various partners.

"The province has seen the introduction of a new scheme which is Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme in Ward 6 in Gwanda. This new scheme was funded by Government as part of efforts to alleviate food challenges. At the pace that we are moving in terms of establishment of new irrigation schemes and rehabilitation of new schemes, the province will soon become a major producer and supplier even to neighbouring provinces," he said.

Source - The Chronicle