By Faith Chimutsa
The revival of irrigations schemes is part of government’s deliberate and broader thrust to climate-proof agriculture to assure household and national food security, eliminate grain imports, promote and diversify exports, create employment, enhance value addition and beneficiation, and accelerate the improvement of rural livelihoods.
The 2022 National Irrigation Competition Prize Giving Ceremony that was held at Rupije Irrigation Scheme, in Masvingo Province, saw community stakeholders coming with lucrative ideas that will profit the scheme in the near future in the drive to reduce hunger and improve women and the girl child.
Minister of Lands , Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Masuka said there was need for the vibrant and robust agriculture sector to attain the Vision 2030 of a prosperous and empowered upper middle income society guided by the National Development Strategy 1.
“The President, His Excellency, Dr ED Mnangagwa’s Vision of a prosperous and empowered upper middle income society by 2030 is anchored on a vibrant and robust agricultural sector. Rural agricultural development must cause rural industrialization. Rural industrialization should lead to rural development. That rural development must accelerate the attainment of Vision 2030,” said Masuka.
He urged Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) to ensure exchange visits so that communities can see why this new business model is being advocated.
“This is the context in which the 450 irrigation schemes are being transformed through overhauling the governance systems, ensuring that irrigation schemes are run as viable businesses, and assuring sustainability of the irrigation schemes. This is why ARDA is now the designated business manager for these schemes.
This is the new ARDA – transformed to deliver rural development. I am informed that already 287 of the 450 irrigation schemes have been transitioned to ARDA management and that many of these have become viable businesses again. I urge ARDA and ARDAS to ensure exchange visits so that communities can see why this new business model is being advocated”, he added.
Complementary efforts focus on conservation agriculture through the sustainable intensification of production through Pfvmvudza/Intwasa which will be refined this year so that crops grown and livestock raised in an agro-ecological region are determined by requirements of the agro-ecological region, and not by what a farmer wants.
Equally, government support will be refined to reflect this principle. Attendant, to this effort is the need for a food systems transformation so that traditional grains can find favour among our population, and especially the youth. In the large holder sector, government is accelerating irrigation rehabilitation and development through dam construction and infrastructure development. This has seen the transformation and rebranding of AFC, AMA, ARDA, ZINWA, GMB and TIMB to reposition these keys institutions to provide much needed support for rural development.
The irrigation schemes competition was introduced to motivate farmers, and to capacitate them for improved production, productivity and profitability.
“The revived Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA), and others, are ready to work with all farmers. AFC will provide loans for farmers who run irrigation schemes as businesses while ARDA will deploy scheme business managers to assist you”, Masuka said.
He also said that going forward, the competition should be reformed to include parameters such as progress towards Vision 2030 by measuring the upliftment of communities, improvement in incomes and social status, food security and other relevant metrices. “Additionally, the winning scheme must be that using the new model of the Vision 2030 Accelerator Model to better align with the President’s Vision. The judging panel must be widened to reflect this thrust. The winning irrigation scheme should hold a field day to celebrate this deserved win, in the following season after they have won the price. This way they will be able to showcase their ingenuity throughout the season so other schemes can come and learn throughout the season” said Masuka