Irrigation key for agric revival: Mangudya

ZIMBABWE must dedicate more efforts towards the establishment and resuscitation of irrigation infrastructure across the country in order to increase irrigable land and reduce the ravaging effects of drought, central bank governor John Mangudya has said.

“The development of irrigation infrastructure allows farmers to supplement rain-fed agriculture and permits continuous crop production and facilitates increased productivity,” he said, adding that irrigation enables the country to expand agricultural activities as dry areas can be turned into highly productive areas.
“Zimbabwe has a huge potential to improve agricultural activities through irrigation owing to the existing dams scattered across all provinces,” he said.

Official statistics show that while the capacity of water bodies was enough to irrigate 330 000 hectares in 2012, utilisation was estimated at only 135 580 hectares.

As of January 2016, the country had only 78 204 hectares under irrigation, with Mashonaland West and Central provinces having the most underutilised dams in terms of irrigation.
Mangudya noted that the resuscitation of the idle irrigation infrastructure and expeditiously bringing it into utilisation was crucial to increase production.

“In the case of irrigation infrastructure, priority should also be given to the adoption of technologies such as drip and canal irrigation which use less power as compared to the overhead sprinklers.

“In the same vein, the use of solar-powered irrigation pumps should also be encouraged to complement the hydro-and thermal power generated by the Zimbabwe Electricity and Distribution Company (ZETDC),” he said.

Agriculture experts also assert that irrigation development should be accompanied with the use of greenhouse technologies that leverage on natural heat, less water, intensive application of inputs and intensive management of the production throughout the year.

Intensive production also entails use of small hectarage which the farmer can afford to manage but giving out higher yields.
“As part of contribution to community schemes, extractive firms should undertake rehabilitation of dams and development of irrigation infrastructure within their communities in return for the socially and economically empowerment credits. This will go a long way in ameliorating against the recurring droughts as a result of climate change and in reducing the negative consequences of floods,” the central boss added.

Zimbabwe, which used to be the breadbasket of southern Africa with its diversified agriculture system, is battling an acute food shortage and government has already declared a state of disaster and is seeking at least $1,5 billion to avert a potentially devastating hunger crisis.

The country’s agriculture sector was decimated at the turn of the millennium when the Zanu PF-led government embarked on a controversial and mostly violent land reform exercise that saw 4 000 commercial farmers being pushed off their land.

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