Samuel Kadungure Senior Farming Reporter
PRODUCTIVITY at five irrigation schemes rehabilitated under the Food and Agriculture Organisation Small Holder Irrigation Support Programme has more than doubled, with farmers rating the just-ended summer season as their best in decades.
The PAO-SIP was funded to the tune of six million Euros by the European Union for implementation in Manicaland and Matabeleland. In Manicaland, 10 schemes in communal and old resettlement areas were earmarked for overhauling in two phases — with the first batch comprising of Gudyanga, Tonhorai, Maunganidze, Musikavanhu A4 and Musikavanhu B2.
The other five are Mutema, Gwerudza Block B and A, Chiduku-Ngove and Chiduku-Tikwiri and rehabilitation work is at various stages, as curtains on the project come down in December this year. FAO project co-ordinator, Mr Simbarashe Marwei, said they had clustered the schemes and deployed managers who trained farmers and Agritex officials on farming as a business, scheme governance and agronomic issues.
“After the rehabilitation of the schemes, we embarked on a programme to support the smallholder irrigation farmers to improve market based production and profitability. We hired farm managers with experience in commercial agriculture to oversee the day-to-day running of the schemes, while at the same time providing coaching and mentoring programmes to farmers and Government extension staff,” said Mr Marwei.
“Two farm managers were recruited and attached to two clusters of irrigation schemes –namely Maunganidze (65ha), Tonhorai (72ha) and Gudyanga (48ha) and another cluster of Musikavanhu in Chibuwe Musikavanhu A (55ha) and Musikavanhu B2 (72ha). The farm managers are taking farmers through their business implementation and providing services to maximise their business viability and success through intensive hands-on approach. The farmers are being strengthened in establishing core business plans and execution that will help them to take their business to the next level. The impact so far is that they have managed to link farmers to financers and markets,” said Mr Marwei.
Farmers at Gudyanga, Tonhorai, Maunganidze, Musikavanhu A4 and Musikavanhu B2 had off take agreements from Agribank, Metbank and CABS where they can borrow money to purchase inputs and finance other production operations.