The Minister of State in Vice President Chiwenga’s office, Dr. Evelyn Ndlovu, has expressed outrage at the struggling Bannock Burn irrigation scheme farmers, in Mhondongori ward in Zvishavane, in the Midlands for failing to utilise the top of the end irrigation equipment installed by government at the irrigation scheme effectively to contribute to food security and nutrition in the country and for Zimbabwe to stop importing food.
Bannock Burn irrigation scheme was started in 2012 with a total irrigable land of 64ha. 30ha was supposed to be irrigated by a centre pivot but the farmers have not been able to effectively utilise the high-tech facility because of power outages and the high costs of pumping water for irrigation opting to use flooding and rainfed agriculture to produce maize and sugar beans.
88 families have planted maize on just 10ha and horticulture crops like sugar beans and rape on one-hectare piece of land as they are using one pump to draw water from the flourishing Ngezi River.
The farmers have blamed the incessant power outages and the high cost of business with the daily increases in agriculture inputs like pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, fertilisers, tools and equipment and labour among others.
The farmers also have to make do with very poor roads that are constantly destroyed by heavy mining trucks operated by the Chinese miner who are mining chrome in a bitter mining-agriculture conflict in the area.
Dr. Evelyn Ndlovu, urged the farmers to form a cooperative and invite the ministry of Women Affairs to train the members on how to work together under a cooperative than the obtaining scenario where individual farmers have 0. 5ha pieces of land that have proven to be less productive and efficient.
Dr. Ndlovu, also encouraged the farmers to establish a pump maintenance schedule to avoid breakdowns at peak periods where production should not stop.
Dr. Ndlovu, also urged the farmers to hold elections soon and form an effective committee that is able to discipline errant farmers and remember that the irrigation scheme is a property of the government and that they can only use it on a “use it or lose it basis”.
Dr. Ndlovu, urged the farmers to engage the Chinese miners so that they also contribute to road construction and maintenance now that we getting into the rainy season.
The Zvishavane district administrator Mr Sithole promised to work with the farmers to ensure enhance productivity and competitiveness of the irrigation scheme.
Mr Sithole also said that he would work to ensure that there is optimal utilisation of all water to produce a lot of food for the nation adding that there is need also to further explore why the irrigation scheme is not performing optimally.
By Francis Bingandadi Managing Editor AgriSeason