AT least 450 hectares of farm-land in Mangwe District, Matabeleland South Province will be opened up under a planned irrigation scheme to enhance the country’s food security while some of the produce is earmarked for the export market.
Agricultural experts have challenged Zimbabwe to exploit its vast irrigation potential to combat the effects of climate change in order to attain food security.
Zimbabwe, whose economy heavily depends on agriculture, has over the past few years seen its agricultural production fluctuate due to changing weather patterns as well as other production bottlenecks.
In the 2014/15 farming season, for instance, Zimbabwe wrote off about 300 000 hectares out of an estimated two million hectares that were planted after crops wilted due to poor rains.
In light of this, the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) has invited bids for feasibility studies on the proposed irrigation project.
The project entails rehabilitating and expanding the defunct Bambanani Irrigation Scheme in Mangwe District.
The IDBZ said a joint venture company called Masola Drummond will partner with Bambanani Irrigation Scheme co-operative and Mangwe Rural District Council (MRDC) to establish a consortium that will spearhead the project.
“The contemplated Special Purpose Vehicle will be granted access to 100 hectares under the original irrigation scheme and an additional 100 hectares on an abutting piece of land. Another 250 hectares is reserved for future expansion to bring the total potential irrigable land to 450 hectares subject to land access approval from MRDC,” the bank said.
“The focus crops are maize, soya beans, horticultural vegetables for the local market with paprika, pecan nuts and bananas mostly for the export market. The joint venture will be granted an operating lease on the entire 450 hectares. This secures tenure and facilitates ease of borrowing from financial institutions.”
The IDBZ said the project would draw water from the nearby Ingwizi Dam, which is located about three kilometres from the scheme and has a water holding capacity of 10 382 million cubic metres.
In addition to improved irrigation infrastructure, the bank said the project would also focus on improved access to markets, enhanced agro-processing, storage and post harvest handling, technologies, nutrition and institutional and human capacity building.
“The consortium is targeting optimum utilisation of the land under intensive agriculture activity in the short term. There are long term plans to set up beneficiation/agro-processing plant(s) either on the scheme itself or at Sanzukwi Business Centre within proximate distance,” the IDBZ said.
“The project is not only intended to modernise agriculture in Zimbabwe but also offer improved household welfare and increased income levels.”
— New Ziana