Monday, February 18, 2008

(HERALD) Govt to revamp irrigation infrastructure

Govt to revamp irrigation infrastructure
By George Chisoko

THE Government has crafted an irrigation rehabilitation and development strategy that will run concurrently with the mechanisation programme as it steps up efforts to turn around the agricultural sector. Shortages of machinery and equipment, coupled with a faltering irrigation infrastructure, have largely been responsible for the poor performance of the sector.

The strategy would be implemented in four phases, starting with the immediate category, that would tackle farmers’ urgent irrigation needs in the coming month as they prepare for winter cropping. The short-term category would cover a period of one year; the medium term three to five years while the long-term phase stretches up to 10 years.

In an interview at the weekend, the Minister of Agricultural Engineering, Mechanisation and Irrigation, Dr Joseph Made, said A2 farmers whose irrigation projects were funded by the Government should immediately report to the district irrigation engineer in their areas to provide him/her with their urgent irrigation requirements.

But farmers who started irrigation projects using their own money should go to commercial banks so they can get funding to either rehabilitate or complete them.

All A2 farmers on properties where irrigation was installed but was not functioning should also get in touch with the district irrigation engineers in their areas. The district engineers have also been tasked to take stock of various A1 farmers for their irrigation needs.

On the back of the anticipated success of the rehabilitation of development strategy, the minister said there would be early maize plantings in August, October and September in the coming year.

He has, thus, instructed the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority to make urgent submissions for all the works that need to be done to bring Arda to full irrigation.

"We want to know the potential irrigable land of the country in its entirety although preliminary results show that the total potential irrigable area is close to three million hectares. We believe the combination of mechanisation and irrigation development should see us reach our full agricultural production potential.’’

With the take-off of this massive irrigation rehabilitation and development, there should be no reason why Zimbabwe should continue importing food, except only in cases of drought.

"Every farmer who has something to do with irrigation must immediately approach me directly or my officers at the ministry so that we tackle the irrigation requirements ahead of the winter season which is just a month away,’’ said Dr Made.

The minister said as the country develops and rehabilitates the irrigation infrastructure, there would be a need to tap on the experiences of other countries where irrigation has been the pillar of agriculture.

Countries like Egypt have highly developed irrigation infrastructure, which has helped them to embark on land reclamation and improve yield levels per unit area.

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