Mash Central Bureau
More small-holder farmers are embracing solar powered irrigation technology to boost production with the recent use of a solar powered centre pivot at Edgon Farm in Mazowe bearing testimony to the success of smart agriculture with small holder farmers turning to solar alternatives to power their pumps and pivots.
Gone are the days when farmers worried about using diesel generators to power water pumps for irrigation.
The solar powered centre pivot is part of an irrigation programme sponsored by the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board to empower small holder farmers and capacitate them to become self-sustainable.
Known as Irrirain pivots, the irrigation system has power storage and can convert direct current to alternating current and can be used interchangeably with electricity from a generator. Launching the programme, Minister of State in the Office of the President and Cabinet in charge of Monitoring the Implementation of Special Agricultural and related programmes Mr Davis Marapira said Vision 2030 can be achieved in the next few years due to rapid positive development in the agriculture sector.
“The Government’s vision is to improve small scale farmers in the wake of climate change. This system can use water from small dams and boreholes,” said Minister Marapira.
“We want to incorporate communal farmers to enable them to participate in the production of tobacco and horticulture to generate much needed foreign currency. The small irrigation system augers well for small scale farmers.
“Food security starts at household level and the excess can be sold to the Grain Marketing Board. This also contributes to the provincial gross domestic product. We are living in a global world and we want to move with technology and I am impressed that this system is being set up by our youths.
“I encourage the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water Fisheries and Rural Resettlement to take this initiative to the rural communities as part of rural development to achieve the President’s vision of an upper middle class economy by 2030.”
He appealed to the Government for a command irrigation programme to ensure fast implementation of irrigation schemes.
Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Senator Monica Mavhunga, who was represented by director Mr Admore Shereni, urged tertiary institutions to come up with innovations that address irrigation needs of small holder farmers.
“We pray for the commercialisation of this adapted small scale irrigation facility in order to use every water body available in the province,” she said.
The youthful farmer Mr Trust Verenga who put in the pivot is an accountant by profession. He said agriculture is his passion.
He recorded a significant increase in the quality and quantity of tobacco following installation of the solar powered irrigation plant in October last year.
“This set up is ideal for farmers with small pieces of land and the centre pivot is custom made and can be adjusted depending on the height of the crop. It is also cost effective, we are using solar energy,” he said.
“My tobacco yield this year increased by 2 000 kilograms after harvesting 3 500 kg per hectare and I can plant year round. I have planted sugar beans and will also put onions on this two hectare portion.”
TIMB technical officer Mr Wonder Matiza said the board had sponsored four farmers across the country to set up the solar powered irrigation system.
“We are running this programme through our business development department to empower small scale farmers. For a farmer to qualify we look at the production level, proof of land and a farmer is expected to pay back within three years,” he said. Any small holder farmer who has the capacity to pay back for the facility qualifies.
The system by Springbate Enterprises Private Limited costs around US$10 000 plus additional installation cost depending on proximity of the water body.
The system can only be installed on 1,5 to 5,5 hectares and 48 spins plus 24 overhang.
The marketing director Mr Shingi Nhunzvi said the firm was engaging local entrepreneurs for the local manufacturing of the plant.
Currently it is importing the material which comes with a 25 year guarantee.
The centre pivot motor is controlled by variable speed drive which leads to constant water distribution due to constant speed.
The wheels have no gear box, use chains and sprockets which improve efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. It has a three-point cable support on overhang making the pivot more stable in windy conditions.