Farmers embrace canal irrigation

FARMERS at Nyakomba in Nyanga North and Nyarumvurwe in Nyanga South believe embracing the voluntary savings and lendings (VSLs) scheme and venturing into canal irrigation is an effective way to alleviate hunger.

They say canal irrigation is the only avenue of mitigating drought brought about by climate changes. Villagers, particularly in Nyanga North where Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme is situated, draw their water from the mighty Gairezi River, and as such the Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme is set to become the country’s biggest functional irrigation scheme.

In 2015, the Japanese government extended a $15 million grant aid for the development of the scheme. The developmental project significantly triggered Practical Action, Zambuka Trust and Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe to further provide farmers with financial as well as technical support to ensure they improve their production levels and generate income for basic household needs.

Matthew Nyagwaya (60), farmer and facilitator of Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme, says thanks to Practical Action as the leading agent and its two implementing partners, Zambuko Trust and Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe, their scheme is growing stronger and embracing VSLs (mukando) to save money and use it for farming purposes.

“Our scheme comprises 10 groups, each with at least 10 members. Zambuko Trust trained us to save money and we are using our savings to buy agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and chemicals,” he said.

Nyagwaya, who heads the irrigation scheme’s three blocks, also said Practical Action empowered farmers by rehabilitating canal irrigation facilities.

“Practical Action is helping us by rehabilitating canal irrigation facilities and this is helping farmers to do off-season farming,” he added.

Hamuzviregi Nyabudukuru (40), a member of Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme, said VSLs and canal irrigation enabled her and other farmers in the scheme to provide for their families.
“The irrigation scheme was established between 1997 and 2000 with funding from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

“Owing to the financial challenges, production decreased and the government battled to rehabilitate the scheme after it was damaged by cyclone-induced floods in 2006, but Practical Action and its partners is supporting us with financial resources and technical skills and as a result our food security has improved significantly.” she said.

Erica Matikiti (47) from Mutanga Village says she joined mukando and Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme to boost her saving.
“I joined VSLs because of problems. Ever since, I managed to boost my savings, purchase food for my family and invest in other income-generating projects, such as raising goats and chickens,” she said.

Matikiti added: “I borrow money from the scheme, use it to buy goods for resale and use my profits to buy agricultural inputs and send my children to school.”

Integration VSLs into farming, adds Josephine Matizakurima (53), “transformed my life as I managed to produce food to feed my family and generate $180 to build a Blair toilet to improve sanitation and hygiene for my family as well as to protect my children from diseases.”

Brian Sedze, an onion and cucumber farmer in Nyarumvurwe, Nyanga South, also applauded Practical Action, Zambuko Trust and Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe for lifting communities out of poverty.

“By providing us with financial resources and technical skills, Practical Action and its partners are not giving us fish, but the fishing rod and this helped us in sustaining our families.
“VSLs and the canal irrigation scheme enabled us to plant cash crops such as cucumbers, potatoes, butternut and beans, which we are selling in local markets to generate income and feed our families,” he said.

Misheck Chigumira, an agriculture extension officer in Ward 23 in Nyarumvurwe, added that farmers in his area (Nyarumvurwe) benefitted from the benevolence of Practical Action and its implementing partners.

The presence of Practical Action, Zambuko Trust and Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe is positively transforming the lives of villagers here.

“Practical Action, for instance, provided 70 Nyarumvurwe farmers with vouchers to buy seeds, fertilisers and chemicals,” he said.
Chigumira added that farmers were also trained to market their produce; a fact supported by Tendai Chiwandandebvu (32), chairman of the Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme’s marketing committee.

“Practical Action helped us with workshops on how to market our produce, and linked us with suppliers of inputs. We did look and learn tours in Masvingo, Harare and Bulawayo,” said Chiwandandebvu.

He added that Practical Action linked 300 farmers in his scheme with Cairns and it agreed to contract them with Michigan P beans.

Richard Chigumira, VLS project officer for Zambuko Trust, says his organisation’s role is simply to promote access to finance through voluntary savings and lendings or internal savings and lendings.

“We encourage an average of about 10 members per group to join hands in saving on average $20 per person for six months, which is then loaned to members at a group-approved interest rate,” he said, adding that each group has put in place administrative systems that track the money that has been saved and loaned.

Chigumira also said, “With no prior access to credit through banks in these rural areas, community members now access loans to buy agricultural inputs to manage and sustain their fields.”

Reginald Sithole, Practical Action’s project manager promoting Smallholder Market Engagement (PSME) says Big Lottery Fund, a British organisation, is the funder of the whole project while Practical Action is the leading agent and its role is to provide funds as well as project management.

“The project started in April 2013 up to March 2016, and $799 538 was the total budget of the project,” he said.
Sithole summed up: “To help the government in fulfilling Section 15 of the Constitution, which provides for food security, Practical Action is working with 11 irrigation schemes and 6 000 families are benefiting from the project.

“The components of the projects are improvement of farmer organisation, agricultural production, market linkages and access to finance.”—Lazarus Sauti

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