Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Ezra Chadzamira is spearheading the revival of the agricultural sector in the province, with the senior government official leading by example at his 120-hectare Cresta Ibeka Farm where he has a thriving winter wheat crop.
Located about 10km west of the ancient city, Cresta Ibeka is now a thriving mixed farm, boasting a fledgling winter wheat crop that is irrigated using a modern computer-linked centre pivot.
Besides a verdant wheat crop, which the Minister is growing thanks to the Command Agriculture programme, there are also plans to venture into commercial garlic production on about 10ha.
Within the next six months, Minister Chadzamira hopes to have also started production of lucerne grass on about 20ha to feed his hybrid cattle herd.
He is currently making foliage for animal feed using stover from a bumper maize crop that he harvested at the end of April.
Minister Chadzamira credits his success to hard work and commitment and is upbeat about the nation regaining its breadbasket tag.
“I have managed to put 20ha under wheat and I am happy that Government, under the stewardship of President Mnangagwa, is supporting farmers under the Command Agriculture scheme so inputs are not a problem at all,” he said.
“My goal is to make sure all the land that I have here is put to use so that we can grow our agricultural sector and help increase aggregate national Gross Domestic Product in line with Vision 2030.”
Agriculture undergirded the province’s economy, hence more effort and resources needed to be channelled there.
“We must produce more and what we are doing here at Cresta Ibeka is aimed at driving other people in the province to fully utilise their land,” said Minister Chadzamira.
“There is no reason why we should not be able to feed ourselves when we have water and land. Our economy as a province is anchored on agriculture.”
Minister Chadzamira irrigates his wheat and garlic seed using three boreholes that feed water into two 100 000 litre-tanks from where it is pumped.
“My plea to people in our province and the nation at large is that let us work the land,” he said. “We have everything from water and good soils. There is no way we can fail to irrigate our fields even in areas where there are no dams because we can always use commercial boreholes for irrigation.”
Minister Chadzamira noted that countries like Israel were predominantly covered by desert, but relied on irrigation technology to feed themselves.
“We must embrace technology and adopt new methods of irrigation that are efficient,” he said. “We must make sure that wherever we are, we make good use of the available water to produce food under irrigation.”
Minister Chadzamira hailed President Mnangagwa’s administration for prioritising irrigation development and extending support to farmers to engender food security.
Masvingo could easily be the nation’s breadbasket, thanks to its good soils and high dam density.
Cresta Ibeka would soon be a haven for lucerne production.
“We are planning to drill three more commercial boreholes to make them six and the additional ones will primarily irrigate lucerne grass that we will soon be growing to feed our livestock,” he said. “We want to put about 20ha under lucerne grass and we have scope to increase our cattle herd to around 600.”
The irrigation development drive by Minister Chadzamira at his farm dovetails with the provincial thrust to shift from over reliance on rain-fed agriculture.
Masvingo’s agricultural future was hinged on irrigation, with the Lowveld integrated master plan forming the bedrock of the province’s plan to feed itself.
“What we are doing here reflects the province’s plan to be the nation’s breadbasket,” he said. “As a province, we have plans in the short to medium term to put 60 000ha under irrigation, especially in the Lowveld.”
Minister Chadzamira noted that being home to several dams, Masvingo could easily turn its fertile Lowveld into an expansive greenbelt stretching from Chiredzi to Rutenga in the east.
A jump in production at peri-urban farms such as Cresta Ibeka is the right prescription to combat the high cost of food in towns.
Minister Chadzamira challenged other farmers to fully utilise their land and help end food insecurity as the world grapples with climate change.