Lands and agriculture minister, Anxious Masuka, is pushing for the setting up of new irrigation facilities and rehabilitation of old ones to improve production in farms as the country moves away from reliance on rain-fed agriculture, Business Times can report.
Zimbabwe recorded its highest production output since the 2000/2001 summer cropping season on the back of good rainfall patterns.
However, Masuka said the country should step up investments in irrigation infrastructure, a move which will help improve production levels above this year’s output of 2.71m metric tonnes.
“There is an urgent need for an Accelerated Irrigation, Rehabilitation and Development Plan which should provide further impetus for assured food and nutrition security and improved livelihoods,” Masuka said in the second Livestock and Crop Assessment report.
“Under this programme more irrigation schemes should be set up and old irrigation facilities should be resuscitated.”
He said there was a need for an accelerated implementation of the agriculture sector blueprints such as Agriculture Recovery Plan, Livestock Recovery and growth, Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan and Agriculture Information Management System.
Masuka said there was marked improvement in maize yield across the country as a result of increased rainfall and good distribution from the onset of the season in November 2020 to the end of February 2021.
However, in some areas yield levels were suppressed due to leaching caused by wet spells experienced in some districts in the southern parts of the country during the months of December and January.
The Livestock and Crop Assessment report said few districts like Mudzi in Mashonaland East and Rushinga in Mashonaland Central experienced dry spells at the beginning of February which led to poor yields and complete crop failure.
Masuka said more boreholes should be sunk to help farmers in such areas.
Agriculture experts said Zimbabwe needs over US$1.5bn for irrigation rehabilitation and new irrigation schemes to improve production levels.
“We need to invest heavily in irrigation schemes be it communal or commercial to improve production on farms. We should not entirely depend on rain-fed agriculture as climate change has affected rainfall patterns over the years,” the Zimbabwe Farmers Union secretary general Paul Zakariya said.
“Whether we have sufficient rains or not, there should be irrigation facilities to help the crop from the dry spells that happen during the mid-season. Small scale farmers should set up drip solar irrigation systems that can help them to produce all year round.”
Zakariya urged farmers to harvest water during the rainy seasons for future usages.
He said the country has water sources but lacks the irrigation infrastructure to make use of that precious liquid.