Govt embarks on massive irrigation development programme

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Harare (New Ziana) – At least 50 000 hectares of land per year will be opened up across Zimbabwe under an accelerated irrigation development programme, as government ramps up the pursuit of measures to mitigate effects of climate change, Cabinet said on Tuesday.

In addition, the Agriculture and Rural Development Authority (ARDA), which owns several farm estates, is being capacitated to ensure it becomes a food, bio-fuels and seed nerve centre for the country.

This is in light of the poor rains received in Zimbabwe this farming season that resulted in decreased hectarage across major crops, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said.

The total area put under strategic crops such as maize, for example, receded by 1 percent, tobacco, 11 percent; sorghum, 2 percent; pearl millet, 25 percent: finger millet, 40 percent; and cotton, 23 percent, statistics provided by government on Tuesday show.

“Going forward, the following measures have been put in place to mitigate the effects of climate change and guarantee household food self-sufficiency: Accelerating climate proofing strategies for small holder farmers, for example Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme to have mandatory pre-conditions of training, holing out and mulching among other strategies.

“Accelerating irrigation development targeting 50 000 hectares per year for A2 farmers, and ARDA will become food, feed, fibre, bio-fuels and seed security agent for the nation; Building resilience by extending the Zunde raMambo/Isiphala seNkosi concept to include Village Heads and Headmen; and Upgrading the Presidential Tick Grease Programme and intensifying the Dip Tank Rehabilitation Programme,” she said in her weekly Post Cabinet Briefing.

“This is in line with the Second Republic’s mantra of leaving no-one and no place behind.”

Mutsvangwa said the First Round Crop and Livestock Survey presented to Cabinet showed that the 2021/2022 cropping season was marked by a false start in most areas of the country, followed by unevenly distributed rainfall, tampering with farming activities.

“Area planted to maize decreased by 1 percent from 1 920 541 hectares in the 2020/21 season to 1 903 669 hectares in 2021/2022. The area planted under maize for Pfumvudza/Intwasa is 342 860 hectares which is 18 percent of the total area planted,” she said.

However, the situation was not all gloom, as some crops recorded increased hectarage, she said, assuring the nation that despite the poor rains, the county had adequate grain in stock, as such, no Zimbabwean would starve.

For example, total area put under rice increased by 97 percent while soya beans and sunflower hectorage increased by 34 percent and 69 percent respectively.

“Pertaining to horticulture, the nation is informed that there was a general increase in the area under most of the perennial crops for the 2021/2022 season except for tea which decreased by 20 percent.Cabinet reports that the area under emerging crops, such as blueberries increased by 15 percent from 285 hectares to 328 hectares and pecan nuts increased by 36 percent from 550 hectares to 748 hectares in the 2021/2022 season.Furthermore, Irish potato production increased by 9 percent,” she said.

On livestock, Mutsvangwa said the national beef cattle herd recorded a marginal growth of 0.6 percent from 5 478 648 cattle in 2020 to 5 509 983 in 2021.

There was an increase in the national small animal population, with the goat population increasing by 7.1 percent; sheep 2 percent; and pigs by 13 percent.

Broiler breeders grew by 9 percent, day old chicks by 19 percent, and broiler meat production increased by 17 percent, she said.

“Cabinet reports that the national dairy milk production increased by 3.8 percent from 76 695 157 litres in 2020 to 79 605 552 litres in 2021,” she said.

On preparations for this year’s winter wheat farming season, Mutsvangwa said Cabinet had approved pre-planting wheat floor producer prices of ZW$175 741.86, and ZW$193 316.046 per metric tonne of ordinary and premium grade wheat respectively.

A total 75 000 hectares has been targeted for wheat production in the upcoming season, compared to the 66 435 hectares planted in 2021.

Various public and private sector funding models were on the table, Mutsvangwa said.

The Presidential Winter Wheat Programme, for example, will be funded wholly by government to the tune of US$9.2 million.

“The hectarage which will be sponsored by CBZ Agro-Yield, AFC Land Bank and Private Sector contribution will bring total estimated production to 383 500 metric tonnes, against a national requirement of 360 000 metric tonnes, thereby ensuring that the country meets its domestic consumption needs,” she said.

“No winter maize production is envisaged as all efforts are directed at ensuring sufficient wheat for the country. There is sufficient water in dams to irrigate the 75 000 hectares.”
New Ziana

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