FAO winds up €6m projects

THE Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has wound up a ₧6 million four-year irrigation rehabilitation programme in Matabeleland South and Manicaland provinces, with the government urging beneficiaries to ensure sustainability of the projects.

BY OWN CORRESPONDENT

The projects directly benefitted over 2 000 households with at least 1 000 hectares of smallholder irrigation land put under use while farmers were equipped with, among other things, management skills for sustainability.

FAO assistant representative for Zimbabwe, David Mfote said plot-holders had also been drilled in scheme governance to see them through successful commercial farming.

“The Smallholder Irrigation Programme (SIP) was a four-year programme being implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (MAMID) funded by European Union (EU). The overall objective of the programme was to improve income, food and nutrition security of communal farmers involved in small scale irrigation,” Mfote told close to 300 people gathered at River Ranch Irrigation Scheme for a field day.

“Its specific objective was to sustainably increase production and profitability of targeted schemes. The programme was part of the FAO and government of Zimbabwe national irrigation rehabilitation framework, designed to directly benefit smallholder irrigators and their communities,” he said.

Among its visions was the improvement of farmer welfare through capacity building, agribusiness development and pilot micro-catchments conservation initiatives.
FAO also supported institutional stakeholders enabling them to improve delivery of key services to smallholder farmers.

The amount provided by EU was to rebuild 20 existing irrigation schemes of Manicaland and Matabeleland South provinces and among them was River Ranch situated near the now disused River Ranch Diamond Mine.

Some 83 farmers, 53 of them elderly women, own 41 hectares and the average landholding for a household is 0,5ha.

FAO and its partners rehabilitated 13 000m², floored overnight storage tanks, installed two river pumps, paid for installation of main (LT) electrical power line, installation of two booster pumps, provision of in-field drag hose sprinkler irrigation system equipment and connection of electricity from Zesa Holdings grid to the water pumping units.

Cesvi, another front-running partner bought a transformer after the old one broke down.

Squat-hole toilets were built at the scheme for hygiene and currently the entire scheme is under sugar beans from a contract farming partnership with Seed Co.

“Farmers have been capacitated in various trainings such as agronomy, scheme governance, farming as a business, environmental management and operations and maintenance of the schemes,” Mfote said.

“The farmers have been linked to various financiers, produce output (including Seed Co) and input suppliers (such as Farm and City and Agricura, and the facilitation shall continue until project closure,” he said.

While officially it was handed over to the villagers on Tuesday experts engaged by FAO and her partners will remain on the ground until December.

Government director of Irrigation in the Ministry of Agriculture Conrad Zawe said he expected farmers to employ the experts left behind by FAO to show growth.

“We expect things to go up, improvements, from here and the scheme must pay its workers. We are not looking back and we want expansion,” Zawe challenged the farmers.

He said he also expected beneficiaries to pay $25 annually for the improvement and opening of more land for expansion.

“We will also increase water by drilling more boreholes, but in two years you will get water from Zhovhe Dam when we finish building a canal to Beitbridge.”

Plot-holder Mandarin Muleya asked government to provide them with better equipment complaining the tractor they had did not have a trailer or a proper furrow disc.

Irrigation scheme chairperson David Sebata said only one water pump was working and this frustrated farmers.

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