Zimbabwe to expand irrigation capacity: VP

ZIMBABWE is moving to increase its irrigation capacity to at least 300 000 hectares as the country moves to capacitate recently-settled black farmers, the country’s Vice President (VP) said.

VP Emmerson Mnangagwa last week said the latest projection anticipated to result in an improved irrigation capacity from the present 160 000 hectares of agricultural land under irrigation.

“It is government’s desire to see the country’s farming activities become more productive with an irrigable expanded maize crop area of a minimum of 300 000 hectares.

“With irrigation, average yield goes up from five tonnes to about eight tonnes per hectare. There is therefore an imperative need for investment in that area,” Mnangagwa said at the recently-ended Zimbabwe Agricultural Society Maize Conference.
Data from the country’s Agriculture ministry targets to develop irrigation facilities for 2,5 million hectares, which it says would take between 25 to 50 years and cost $10,5 billion.

Mnangagwa said the completion of Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam in southern Masvingo Province would add an additional 25 000 hectares to the country’s existing irrigation capacity, and more initiatives were being pursued to add further capacity.
The VP said it was not just government’s mandate to secure irrigation investment, but also called on private players to recognise potential in the area.

Zimbabwe has many water bodies that have not been fully utilised on the back of limited financial resources and neglect of existing irrigation facilities.

Agriculture experts contend Zimbabwe needs to exploit its vast irrigation potential to combat the effects of climate change.
The VP said it was also important to prioritise farm mechanisation, adoption of modern farming methods and development of improved seed varieties.

Zimbabwe has over the past few years seen its agricultural production dropping on the back of changing weather patterns, unreliable rains as well as other production bottlenecks.

In the 2014/15 season, Zimbabwe wrote off about 300 000 hectares out of an estimated two million hectares that were planted after crop failure due to sporadic rains leading to a serious deficit that government met through imports.

The season was the country’s worst drought since 1992 with maize output coming to a paltry 500 000 tonnes, leaving it to rely on maize imports to meet its demand estimated at 1,5 million tonnes annually.

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