Elita Chikwati and Rutendo Rori
There is a drive to revive rural horticulture and rehabilitate and modernise irrigation to boost agricultural productivity, promote food self-sufficiency, supply export markets and improve earnings for smallholder farmers.
This includes coming up with appropriate irrigation models, using available water resources to climate-proof agriculture and develop programmes that ensure no one is left behind, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said yesterday after touring Chibvuti and Mukwene A1 irrigation schemes in Goromonzi.
He wanted to assess and appreciate the level of investment required to make the farms productive again, using modern technology.
VP Chiwenga was accompanied by Minister of State for Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs and Devolution Aplonia Munzverengwi, Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka, Energy and Power Development Minister Zhemu Soda, and other dignitaries.
Chibvuti and Mukwene farms had been experiencing challenges that include old and inadequate irrigation facilities, limited access to funding and market information.
Addressing farmers, VP Chiwenga said the development of agriculture remained Zimbabwe’s most direct route to import substitution, reducing poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
He said Government had come up with the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan to address challenges faced by most resettled A1 farmers.
VP Chiwenga urged the farmers with land to look for investors to increase productivity.
Such arrangements are coordinated through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement.
“Government is determined to capacitate all smallholder farmers who were settled where there are water bodies for irrigation,” said VP Chiwenga. “Mashonaland East province has over 29 996 hectares of developed irrigation area. Of the developed irrigable area, about 13 000 hectares are under functional irrigation and the rest require rehabilitation.
“The province has a potential irrigable area of over 88 000 hectares. In this regard, Government’s thrust is to rehabilitate, develop and modernise irrigation in Zimbabwe.”
There is need to increase the area under irrigation at Mukwene and Chibvuti farms and the entire province.
VP Chiwenga urged farmers who are irrigating to include food crops such as wheat, as well as high value crops such as peas, blueberries and baby marrows in their cropping programmes.
“We would like to resuscitate all cold rooms and pack shades that are lying idle so that they become valuable collection, grading, packing and storage hubs of our export market,” said VP Chiwenga.
He warned farmers against cultivating along the Munhenga River.
Minister Masuka said Government was working on resuscitating conventional horticulture; flowers, fruits and vegetables.
He said under the Innovative Rural Horticulture Programme, every village will have a borehole and a nutrition garden while every homestead will have fruit trees.
Further, every ward will have two centres for horticulture, as part of efforts to boost production.
“We mainstream everyone into the main economy,” he said. “Irrigation development is key to climate-proofing agriculture.”
Minister Munzverengwi said the province had abundant water in dams and rivers, which could be used for irrigation.
“Our main objective in agriculture is to guarantee food self-sufficiency through increased crop production and productivity,” she said. “The irrigation schemes in Mashonaland East are characterised by low production, minimum contribution to the economy and the inability to cover developmental and operational costs and our committee members require training in managements skills to be able to maintain infrastructure.
“There is need for Government to come up with new irrigation management models at A1 irrigation farms. The establishment of crops at irrigation schemes should follow plans without following individual irrigators.”
Minister Munzverengwi said peoples’ livelihoods would improve if a greenbelt was established along Rwenya River in Mudzi.
Provincial teams have already carried out a feasibility study and established that 5 000 hectares can be developed along the river.
“We want to establish a town just like Beitbridge, but we would want infrastructure that can support the development,” she said. “We want to have a gateway to Malawi and Mozambique. Causeway Dam will soon be completed and we hope the irrigation scheme will be developed so we can produce food.
“Mashonaland East used to be the hub for horticulture and we hope if our province is revived in agriculture, we will be able to contribute towards the national GDP.”