Zimbili’s irrigation system comes to life
Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Head of Matabeleland South Office
The government has resuscitated the Zimbili irrigation scheme in Umzingwane district, through the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda).
The system has been dormant for nine years and the government has targeted it as part of accelerated efforts to revitalize irrigation systems in pursuit of sustainable food security.
The government, in collaboration with various partners, is rehabilitating irrigated perimeters that had remained unused across the country and creating new ones to improve food and nutrition security and ensure the achievement of Vision 2030.
The country aims to rehabilitate and develop 350,000 hectares of land by 2025 across the country to protect the country from the negative effects of climate change and ensure food security.
Under the Second Republic, the Government gave priority to reviving the agricultural sector through the development of irrigated perimeters to alleviate food insecurity and poverty, particularly in rural communities.
Managers have been deployed to irrigation schemes across the country to maximize production, thereby ensuring food security and nutrition.
The 50 hectares of arable land in Ward 19 was created in 2013. In 2014, farmers received equipment including a hose reel, tractor, disc harrow and planter. However, the farmers have not produced any crops under irrigation for the past nine years due to a failure in the irrigation water pumping system.
They produced rainfed maize.
A technical team from Arda was deployed to the irrigated perimeter and succeeded in restoring the water supply to the irrigated perimeter. Farmers are ready to plant their first crop this summer.
Zimbili Irrigation Scheme chairwoman, Ms Patience Sibanda, said they practice rain-fed agriculture which limits production.
She said they started with 40 members, but many pulled out after the pumps broke down.
“The irrigation system was never operational because we failed to irrigate. We produce once a year using rainwater. We had about 40 members but people withdrew because they preferred to produce in their fields. We couldn’t sell much of what we produced,” she said.
“We are delighted because we now have water reserves to irrigate our crops. We only produced maize, but now we will be able to introduce a variety of crops and produce throughout the year. We hope to put the crops under irrigation for this next summer growing season.
Zimbili Irrigation Scheme member Mr Enock Dube said production under rain-fed agriculture was difficult due to low rainfall. He said members would now be logging significant yields to sell to the Grain Marketing Board.
“Our livelihoods should improve once we start producing. We will sell our products and earn income that will help us support our families. We will focus on the production of cash crops. It has been painful to see our irrigation system idle for all these years and to see the dam that feeds the irrigation system underutilized,” he said.
Mr Dube said he was grateful to the government for the assistance provided through Arda. He said they have equipment that can help them produce at full capacity, but they have been idle. Mr Dube said efforts had been made in the past to get the irrigation system operational, but had been in vain.
Zimbili Irrigation Scheme Secretary, Ms Barbara Moyo, said Arda also came with knowledge of best farming practices. She said it will come in handy when production begins.
Mr Sindiso Mlalazi, Acting Director of Arda Umzingwane Irrigation Scheme, said the agricultural authority was facilitating a loan for farmers under the Agricultural Finance Company (AFC), formerly Agribank . He said farmers in the irrigation system received inputs for summer crops. Mr Mlalazi said a manager will be deployed to the irrigation system.
“Farmers in the Umzingwane irrigation system were never able to irrigate because the pumping system was not working.
“Through agriculture, they practice rain-fed agriculture. We came as Arda to get the program up and running. The pumping system is now operational and we are dealing with some leaks in the piping system,” he said.
Mr. Mlalazi added: “The project draws its water from a perennial dam that has stood idle for all these years. Some of the equipment the farmers had received remained unused. A manager will be deployed on the irrigated perimeter. –@DubeMatutu