A MULTI-MILLION-DOLLAR European Union (EU) irrigation infrastructure support to smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe has started to pay dividends, with farmers in Mutema Irrigation Scheme, Chipinge district, harvesting their first banana crop with a ready market.
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
The EU is disbursing the six million euro fund through the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and so far, $200 000 has been invested in the Mutema scheme, which is now helping over 100 farmers who have a quarter-hectare plot each.
Themba Mundidini is excited about the prospect of his first harvest from the scheme after four failed attempts, as they did not have efficient irrigation infrastructure.
“I was among the first farmers to join the scheme and I have a quarter-hectare banana plot and I have a ready market for the produce after FAO linked us with Matanuska (a company which buys fresh bananas),” he said.
Mundidini said farmers were also benefiting from the expert extension services and access to loans for working capital.
“I am harvesting about 50 bunches each weighing between 20kg and 25kg and the bananas are being bought by Matanuska at 22 cents/kg. We have been linked to a bank facility, where we can borrow working capital,” he said
Mundidini said the farmers were also receiving basic business training under the programme “Farming Business” where they are taught subjects such as marketing, budgeting and planning.
The FAO project, funded over a four-year programme, is restoring communal irrigation schemes by repairing and rebuilding infrastructure to increase production, thus, boosting food and nutrition security.
It is also ensuring incomes for smallholder farmers by linking them to markets and financial institutions.
Through the project, farmers have been trained on the principles of scheme governance, agronomy and farming as a business.
FAO says idle irrigation schemes, previously crippled by broken canals and poorly attended crops, only three years ago, have morphed into flourishing fields unlocking the commercial potential of smallholder farmers and offering a lasting solution to food and nutrition security and to achieving zero hunger.