Mashudu Netsianda in Binga
Maize production is to be boosted by an additional one million tonnes a year within three years through the development of 100 000 hectares of new irrigated land under the Agriculture Recovery Plan in the Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme in Binga, Masvingo and at Kanyemba, with both Government and the private sector being involved.
The initial phases of the huge investment will be done in three years, with the Government roping in the private sector, and will ensure almost half of Zimbabwe’s maize requirements are met from the new lands, even in a bad drought.
In subsequent phases citrus, macademia and pecan nuts will be added to these low altitude irrigated schemes in a new greenbelt. The combined phases will produce for export, as well as local demand and local processing.
Speaking during a tour in Binga of Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said the programme, which is expected to run till 2023 is key in terms of investing in food security and will ensure that the country preserves foreign currency by reducing the food import bill
“Government proposes to create a maize belt in the lowveld areas of Masvingo, Bulawayo Kraal and Kanyemba through the Agriculture Recovery Plan where the country will be able to do two maize cycles per year under irrigation,” he said.
“I am glad that land clearance has commenced at Bulawayo Kraal and corporate farming will be promoted.”
Government was eager to incentivise the private sector to consider seriously investing in the envisaged greenbelt project in a smart partnership.
At Bulawayo Kraal, ARDA has entered into a joint venture with a local private company to put 15 000 hectares of land under food crops, export crops and crocodile farming.
Government has since directed ARDA and its investment partners to develop 400 hectares at Bulawayo Kraal and take over installed equipment as well as assuming the debt and loan component.
ARDA will enter into a 25-year concession agreement with one of the investors at Bulawayo Kraal, creating a guided core estate and in-grower and out-grower schemes.
“The Ministry (of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement) will be responsible for project land allocation and overall supervision of policy guidance on the project.
“The investor will raise capital for the project which shall be a combination of equity and debt and development of the entire 15 000 hectares of row crops and citrus as well as the installation of centre pivot irrigation scheme,” said VP Chiwenga.
So far 200 hectares of land already cleared at Bulawayo Kraal have been put under white sorghum with 965 pipes worth $25 million for the 4km pipeline to the night storage dam having been procured for the project, including farming inputs.
VP Chiwenga said value addition facilities and production of value-added products for both local and export trading will be established at Bulawayo Kraal.
Under the rural development programmes, ARDA will also implement fisheries and crocodile farming projects in the Zambezi River for the benefit of the local communities.
ARDA will also engage a separate partner who will work concurrently in the implementation of the project. The fisheries project will be supported under the agricultural revolving fund.
Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi, who was part of VP Chiwenga’s delegation, assured farmers in Binga that his ministry prioritised the Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme project. He said his ministry will ensure that there’s unlimited distribution of electricity in the district.
“Binga is one of our priority areas in terms of development. Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme symbolises the rise of giant. I want to assure you that as minister in charge of power I will make sure there is unlimited distribution of power at Bulawayo Kraal because we want to ensure that this project is a success,” he said.
Bulawayo Kraal was established in 1996 after local villagers from Manjolo and Siachilaba approached Government for assistance in terms of developing an irrigation scheme to cushion them from the adverse effects of drought.
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