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Irrigation development could be the answer to climate change effects which have affected rainfall patterns in Binga.
Two decades after the establishment of the Bulawayo Kraal, little to talk about has been done, now community leaders have become impatient.
BINGA (The Citizen Bulletin) — When it was established in 2004, Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme was meant to change the face of the dry Binga district with sustainable nutrition, food security and employment.
Close to two decades later, the irrigation scheme has remained largely a pipedream as no meaningful cropping has been done. The ageing pipes have been causing severe water leakages and no meaningful planting has been done under irrigation.
Chief Siachilaba who represents the community, following the death of Chief Siakalenge who was the representative after the death of local Chief Binga, says the local community’s hopes are almost shattered by the government's failure to implement the project.
“Nothing is happening or has been planted at the irrigation and we might have another wasted year. People are starving and this was going to help alleviate hunger in our area.”
He says the scheme would have employed youths and become a source of livelihood for the whole community. At some point, 200 people were employed to clear land. Chief Siachilaba says the story of Binga is that of a person who is "thirsty yet the feet are in water".
“People now survive on vending where they mostly sell Busika. Some sell fish and the few who have livestock can here and there sell to eke a living. We are saying this scheme could have empowered everyone here.”
There are 99 direct members from Dumbwe and Bulawayo Kraal villages. The irrigation is situated in Manjolo in Chief Binga's area and is about 10km from the Zambezi Riverbank.
The idea was to transform Manjolo into a fully-fledged growth point with residential compounds for workers, a police station and a clinic once the irrigation is fully implemented.
Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme was started as part of the Zambezi Green Valley (Zagreva) project which seeks to create a greenbelt along the Zambezi River stretching from Kazungula to Kariba. It is supposed to be 15 000ha and could have been one of the biggest irrigation projects by the government in Matabeleland North.
Only 400ha have been cleared with hardly 200ha planted each year. Judging by its size, the scheme can feed the whole of Binga District as well as Matabeleland North province which is reeling under the effects of climate change and recurrent droughts. Binga is one of the country's driest areas with relatively very low annual rainfall and infertile soils, a situation that makes rain-fed farming unreliable.
Villagers grow mostly small grain crops and face hunger. Initially, the scheme was managed by Agritex who tried maize, millet and in 2018 planted 100ha of cotton but it also failed.
The major challenge is pipe bursts. The pipeline is just over 10km from the pump station on the Zambezi River through the mountains.
Work is underway to lay a new pipeline and draw water from a Zambezi River push back about 3km away.
The scheme has been getting inputs through the Presidential Input Support Scheme and Command Agriculture programmes. A sorghum crop that was planted this year was written off due to what the government termed “remote management leading to wastage of resources.”
Only three of the seven centre pivots are functional. The government then replaced Agritex with the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) who are the new project managers. Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka implored ARDA to do better.
“We are disappointed that resources went down the drain. We expect the new ARDA board to do better and transform agriculture and the rural landscape towards vision 2030.”
Dr Anxious Masuka, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement minister
“A lot of work is going on and we expect a change of fortunes as we have now adopted a new philosophy for these projects to accelerate irrigation development from the current 216 000ha to over 420 000ha by 2024,” Dr Masuka says.
A new project scope has been developed and work is underway to lay a new pipeline and draw water from a Zambezi River push back about 3km away.
An overnight storage dam is being built while a new pump engine with a capacity to pump 315 cubic metres of water per hour has been installed.
ARDA Chief Executive Tinotenda Mhiko says they plan to plant 400ha of sorghum and target to get US$400 000 from at least 1 500 tonnes of produce. Zanu-PF District Coordinating Committee chair Vwelenga Mugande says Binga is becoming impatient.
“We have been seeing the new contractor collecting old pipes and we can only hope that something is moving. We heard two tractors are coming to start ploughing and we hope we will see some planting taking place.
“We are a bit impatient and the whole community is really affected because this would have been a source of employment and food security as well as industrialise our area because there was going to be lots of construction,” he says.
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