Solar projects boost food security in Matabelaland

GLOBAL humanitarian organisation, Practical Action, has rolled out a US$2,3 million solar-powered irrigation projects aimed at transforming drought-prone Gwanda North district into a greenbelt.

BY STAFF REPORTER

This becomes the second solar project following the handover of a 100 megawatt mini-solar grid to Mashaba community in Gwanda South district two months ago, a project now sustaining 2 800 households, three irrigation projects, a clinic, three business centres and schools.

The second project, funded by the Swedish embassy through the Swedish International Development Co-operation, which started in October 2017 running into August next year, has so far benefited over 900 families as the country looks to solar energy for food security.

Speaking during a tour of the projects in Dadata last week, Practical Action project co-ordinator Melody Makumbe said they were targeting derelict irrigation projects, drawing water from dams or drilling boreholes, where there is no ready source of water.

So far, they have rehabilitated four irrigation schemes and 15 community gardens in the district.

“Our target is to build resilience to climate change, facilitate access to markets, strengthen management structures and economically empower vulnerable villagers, mostly women and youths,” Makumbe said.

She added that the communities had embraced the programme because it helps to promote food security and guarantee a ready market for their farm produce.

Projects officer Lucky Hlabangana said in addition to solar facilities, they also provided diesel-powered water pumps as back-up.

Practical Action is also running similar projects in Plumtree.

Zimbabwe has been plagued by power shortages after a drought forced the Kariba Hydro power plant to operate below capacity. The country, now relying on power imports from South Africa’s Eskom, has been experiencing long hours of power shortages.

In last week’s Cabinet meeting, President Emmerson Mnangagwa gave a nod for the country to initiate renewable energy projects anchored on solar if the country is to move away from persistent power problems.

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