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Irrigated land countrywide has increased to 135 000 hectares this year owing to the ongoing thrust by Government to shift from dependence on rain-fed agriculture.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development responsible for Cropping Davis Marapira yesterday said hectarage under irrigation countrywide increased by about 15 000ha over the past 12 months from last year’s 120 000ha.

Cde Marapira said the size of irrigated land in Zimbabwe was expected to further rise next year after the completion of ongoing rehabilitation work on major irrigation schemes around the country.

“We are happy that the area under irrigation continues to grow as this will greatly enhance the country’s food security.

Irrigation schemes such as Nyanyadzi and Nhowe in Manicaland have already been completed while work on others like Mushandike in Masvingo is underway,” he said.

He said Government and its development partners were involved in the rehabilitation of several small and large-scale irrigation schemes around the country.

Mushandike scheme was the largest in Masvingo, covering 1 000ha, but less than 200ha is under irrigation after the scheme was blighted by problems ranging from shortage of water to dilapidated canals.

Cde Marapira said the rehabilitation of Mushandike was expected to be completed next year, restoring livelihoods of more than 5 000 villagers in the arid Chivi and Masvingo districts which depended on the scheme.

Plans were also underway to construct a $10 million pipeline that draws water from Muzhwi Dam in northern Chivi to irrigate plots at Mushandike.

Cde Marapira said most of the irrigated land around the country was currently under sugar cane and citrus.

“We want the bulk of the land to go under crops such as maize and wheat so that we can have enough food. We want to stop the importation of maize and wheat every year,” added Cde Marapira.

He said it was disheartening that Masvingo had fewer irrigation schemes despite having the highest dam density in Zimbabwe.

Besides boasting big dams such as Lake Mutirikwi in Masvingo district, Manjirenji in Zaka, Manyuchi in Mwenezi and others that were underutilised, the province will also have the giant Tokwe-Mukosi Dam in Chivi on board soon.

Tokwe-Mukosi will have the potential to irrigate 25 000ha in southern parts of Masvingo Province.

However, funding constraints threaten the immediate use of Tokwe-Mukosi water for irrigation as preliminary estimates indicate that at least $250 million will be required to fully develop the mega-dam’s irrigation potential.

Source : The Herald

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