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Mtshabezi greenbelt transforms rural agriculture

by Staff reporter
20 Sep 2022 at 06:03hrs | Views
AN 87-year-old dream turned into reality following Government's bold move to transform Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme in Gwanda District, Matabeleland South, into a greenbelt in line with the Second Republic's  accelerated rural development and industrialisation drive.

The vast tract of arable land has been lying idle for almost a century. Farmers at the 200 hectare Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme, have put 45 hectares under wheat crop.

Their ultimate target is to utilise at least 150 ha under the summer cropping season.

Despite planting wheat late, the farmers with the assistance from Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda), Department of Irrigation and the Agricultural Rural Development and Advisory Services, managed to improve their crop.

They are now expecting to harvest between 4-5 tonnes per hectare. Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme, which is being managed by Arda, is set to transform subsistence agriculture at household level into commercial agriculture as part of rural development and industrialisation.

Through rural industrialisation, Government hopes to stem rural-urban migration which saps growth from the African countryside, transferring it to towns and cities. Rural industrialisation, which hinges on the Second Republic's devolution policy, involves nurturing agro-processing start-up enterprises in rural areas through financial and technological support via venture capital funding and Government agencies.

The scheme has been established as part of an integrated business model that is being replicated across all provinces in the country as part of the National Food Security Strategy.

Late last year, President Mnangagwa launched the Arda Vision 2030 accelerator model programme at Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme.

The model is meant to stimulate rural industrialisation through agricultural development in line with Vision 2030, which is anchored on driving the country's economy into upper middle-income status.

Under this model, Government is stimulating industrialisation of rural communities through engendering value addition and beneficiation

Last year in September, Government channelled $177 million towards the establishment of Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme as part of its accelerated efforts to revitalise irrigation schemes to boost food security.

The funds were used to develop infrastructure which included the installation of water pipes and a centre pivot.

Farmers at Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme also received a $20 million loan through the Land Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe (LADBZ) for land preparation and planting.

Government introduced LADBZ last year to drive agriculture growth through the provision of affordable financing to farmers.

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

The chairman of Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme, Mr Ndabezinhle Nyoni, said the farmers are committed towards making the project a success.

"As you can see a dream of so many years has finally come true. A few months back we were preparing land not knowing whether our efforts would yield positive results," he said.

"We have a good wheat crop which will be harvested soon. This was made possible through Government's efforts to improve our livelihoods as rural communities."

Mr Nyoni commended Arda, Agricultural Rural Development and Advisory Services and the Department of Irrigation for guiding farmers and training them.

He said the farmers were eager to harvest their first-ever crop and looking forward to the 2022/23 summer cropping season.

Mtshazo Village head, Mr Roy Mayisa said the outcome of their crop reflects the Government's commitment to improving lives of rural communities.

"We planted late and we had a short period to complete the planting process, but we are really impressed by the outcome. We were anticipating a yield of 2,5 tonnes per hectare due to the delay, but through hard work and assistance from Arda, the Agricultural Rural Development and Advisory Services and Department of Irrigation, our crop turned out well," he said.

A plot holder, Ms Honour Ndlovu (61), said as part of their future plans, they intend to set up a milling plant in the locality where they can produce their own bread.

"I am quite certain that we will realise significant income and improve our standard of living," she said.

Mr Edward Sithole (68) said he was delighted to witness Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme dream becoming a reality. Mr Sithole said the project will solve many problems which the community has been experiencing for a long time.

"When I see this crop at the scheme, I know that our hunger and poverty challenges are a thing of the past. Our children will get employment as the irrigation scheme grows and once production is escalated. We will soon be feeding the entire community of Gwanda," he said.

In an interview during a visit to Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme, Arda chief executive officer, Mr Tinotenda Mhiko said the development at the scheme is a huge milestone for a community had been marginalised for long.

Mr Mhiko said there is need for local processing of all the produce coming from all the rural irrigation schemes in the district to speed up rural industrialisation.

"This is one of the schemes which has been managed under the revolutionary Arda Vision 2030 accelerator model programme, which entrenches viability, profitability and sustainability of irrigation schemes. We are expecting a bumper harvest and from the crop and we are proud that these households moved to surplus oriented farming," he said.

Under the model, each district across the country will have 200 ha under irrigation with the beneficiaries being locals.

This will enable households to achieve food self sufficiency in terms of the grain requirements and access to processed commodities at household level.

Mr Mhiko said Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme farmers will receive inputs for the 2022/23 summer cropping season next week. Acting provincial director for Agricultural Rural Development and Advisory Services in Matabeleland South, Mr Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu said the project was mooted following the construction of Mtshabezi Dam.

For years, water at the dam has been underutilised. Mr Ndlovu said Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme will go a long way in addressing issues of food and nutrition security and employment creation. Mtshabezi Irrigation Scheme is one of the first projects in Gwanda District to be revitalised under the irrigation acceleration programme.

Mr Ndlovu said while the province falls under semi-arid region characterised by low rainfall, there are abundant water bodies complemented by good soils which are favourable for massive irrigation activities.

"As a province we can't do any sound cropping activity in this region without supplementary irrigation or full irrigation because we are in an ecological region characterised by low rainfall. In light of the effects of climate change, we badly need climate-smart technologies to address these issues," he said.

The Government, working with various partners, is rehabilitating irrigation schemes that have been lying idle in Matabeleland South and establishing new ones to improve food and nutrition security.

Government is targeting to rehabilitate and develop 350 000 hectares of land by 2025 across the country 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. The Second Republic has made food security a top priority and is working towards a US$8,2 billion agriculture industry economy by 2023, underpinned by the country's National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) — the driver towards Vision 2030 to make Zimbabwe an upper middle-class economy.

Source - The Chronicle
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