The quest to achieve food security using existing water bodies continues to gain traction in the Lowveld where Government and Lowveld sugar producer Tongaat Hulett Zimbabwe (THZ) have jointly increased the area under irrigated winter maize and traditional grains to nearly 5 000 hectares.
Under this initiative, Government is providing inputs under Command Agriculture, while Tongaat and Masvingo Development Trust (MDT) are providing technical expertise and land for the venture.
Winter maize production in the Lowveld continues to grow in leaps and bounds, with 3 000ha expected to be put under maize this year up from only 327ha last year.
This year, traditional grains production has also been expanded with 1 900ha earmarked for sorghum and sunflower seed at Kilimanjaro in Hippo Valley estates.
Last Friday, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Dr Anxious Masuka, accompanied by Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Ezra Chadzamira, toured Kilimanjaro where the winter maize project is being developed.
He expressed satisfaction with progress in the food initiative, with planting of both maize and traditional grains ongoing.
Tongaat, at the behest of Government, decided to temporarily commit land cleared for sugar cane production at Kilimanjaro in Hippo Valley for winter maize to help cut the nation’s food import bill.
To date, 1 600ha is already under maize at Kilimanjaro, which is at various stages of growth, while planting of more maize is ongoing.
Another 1 900ha at Kilimanjaro is being put under traditional grains, while at Mwenezana estates in Mwenezi, more than 1 000ha is also being put under winter maize.
Dr Masuka paid tribute to Tongaat, MDT and Government for embarking on the winter maize and small grains production initiatives in the Lowveld.
“We are excited with progress that has been covered to date, with 1 600ha having put under maize in Chiredzi that is at different stages of growth,” he said.
“We also have winter maize at Mwenezana Estates and this is being jointly done by Tongaat, Masvingo Development Trust and Government.
“I am also happy to announce that a further 1 900ha is being put under traditional grains at Kilimanjaro and all this is being done to make sure that Masvingo in particular and the nation at large achieve food security.”
Planting of both maize and traditional grains is expected to be completed by the end of this month.
Minister Chadzamira said the winter maize initiative would positively impact on the national economy, as the country will save hard-earned foreign currency by trimming the food import bill.
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga recently toured the Lowveld winter maize projects in Chiredzi and Mwenezi where he was able to convince Tongaat to further commit more irrigable land for maize production to ensure food security.
Last year, 1 186 tonnes of grain were produced under the winter maize initiative in the Lowveld, but this year up 40 000 tonnes are expected following an increase in hectarage.