Inputs transform farmers’ lives
MORE than 250 farmers at Mundi-Mataga Biri Extension irrigation scheme in Mberengwa District are now fully enjoying the fruits of the popular land reform programme, thanks to machinery sourced by the Government from Brazil.
The scheme’s chairperson, Mrs Dorcas Masendu, says 251 families who are farming on 117 hectares of land are a happy lot after being allocated tractors sourced from the South American country.
“Before the Government intervention,” she said, “the farmers were battling starvation. We are grateful to our Government for sourcing equipment from Brazil which is helping us enhance production”.
Brazil is a regional power in Latin America and an emerging player in global economics and relations.
The South American nation is one of the main agricultural machinery manufacturers in the world. In 2012, according to the Brazilian Automotive Vehicles Manufacturers’ Association, it produced 83 600 agricultural machines.
Mundi-Mataga Biri Extension irrigation scheme had ceased operations following floods experienced in February last year, which damaged infrastructure.
Mrs Masendu says the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development came on board and successfully rehabilitated the irrigation scheme.
“When the irrigation pipes were swept away by the floods, life became very difficult to such an extent that we had to sell firewood for our survival. We had been struck by hunger, but right now we are glad that a solution has been found and implemented,” she said.
The Government donated nine tractors, 200 bags of cement, pipes and helped in the resuscitation of the water pump at Mundi-Mataga Dam.
“Things are changing for the better here. We were hungry not very long ago but now we have this maize crop which we have harvested from our fields. We are waiting to sell it to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) in the hope of making some money to help us sustain our agricultural activities and sustain our families as well,” said Mrs Masendu.
She says they had to take the maize to GMB because they also received farming implements from the board.
Government availed the nine tractors and equipment through the Brazil-funded More Food for Africa Programme. The new equipment includes pumps, centre pivots, horse reels, irrigators, tractors, disc harrows, disc ploughs, fertiliser spreaders and knapsack sprayers.
To the more than 250 families farming at Mundi-Mataga Biri Extension irrigation scheme, the name Brazil has now become synonymous with the state of the art machinery they are using to work on their plots. The Mberengwa farmers have since harvested over 70 tonnes of maize.
The 251 farmers are part of the thousands of formerly landless Zimbabweans who benefited land under the fasttrack land reform of 2000. It was a programme that attracted world-wide attention and criticism from the West after white commercial farmers lost vast tracts of underutilised land.
Mrs Masendu says the land reform programme was a noble initiative aimed at empowering the majority indigenous people by giving them back their land, taken from indigenous Zimbabweans by the colonialists.
The Government’s land reform programme resulted in more than 300 000 Zimbabweans becoming land owners.
Close to two decades after the land reform programme’s initiation, some indigenous farmers were still facing challenges in accessing farming equipment.
Players in the agricultural sector applauded the Government for assisting farmers in different provinces, including those at Mundi-Mataga Biri Extension irrigation scheme, by availing the latest farming equipment to them.
Government struck another deal with Belarus which has pledged to provide the country with the latest equipment in the agricultural sector.
President Mugabe recently urged the private sector to complement Government efforts in reviving and revolutionising the agriculture sector and the economy.
In response to the President’s call, the Mundi-Mataga Biri Extension Irrigation scheme has since attracted the attention of corporate partners such as Cairns Foods. A hectare of land has been set aside for a sugar beans trial project.
Now with the Brazilian equipment, the Cairns Foods contract and the availability of water for irrigation, the sky is the limit for the Mberengwa farmers.
Mrs Masendu says farmers should be preparing to plant beans in early August to honour their contract with Cairns Foods.
“We have been preparing to plant the beans after harvesting maize from the fields. We want our fields to have a crop every month of the year so as to maximise on the water and available machinery at our disposal. We got farming inputs which include fertilizer and seed beans from Cairns Foods. We are now planting the seed beans. On top of that Cairns Foods will pay us $40 per month each for the coming four months as part of our water and electricity consumption. This looks like a good deal and we hope to do well,” said Mrs Masendu.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Cde Davies Marapira, says Government was committed to seeing the revival of the agriculture sector.
He said Zimbabwe should regain breadbasket of Southern Africa.
“Mundi-Mataga Biri Extension Irrigation scheme is a living testimony of how society can be transformed when the necessary tools are availed to members. The Government has assisted where it can and the ball is now in the farmers’ court. They have to fully utilise the available water, the equipment and the contracts they are getting from companies such as Cairns Foods. This is good for the country,” he said.
Cde Marapira says the winter maize is coming onto the market at a time when GMB is paying farmers on time.
He says GMB has reclaimed its position as the partner of choice for local farmers.
“Right now no one is paying like GMB and these farmers should rush to GMB,” he said.
Cde Marapira said the Government was targeting to utilise all the water bodies and arable land to ensure food security.
Mundi-Mataga Biri Extension Irrigation scheme had $79 235 debt in water bills written-off by Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) to ensure viability and imminent revival of the irrigation scheme which benefits people in Mataga.
At its peak the irrigation scheme used to deliver close to 1 000 tonnes of maize to GMB and has the capacity of feeding half of Mberengwa district.
Mberengwa Rural District Council Chief Executive Officer, Mr Julius Mashavakure, said the local authority was excited by the revived irrigation project. He says the district was encouraged by the manner in which Mundi-Mataga Biri Extension Irrigation scheme was transforming lives in Mataga.
Mr Mashavakure says the scheme has the capacity to boost Mberengwa’s economy.
He expressed gratitude to Zinwa and the power utility, Zesa, for availing their services consistently ever since the intervention of government.
“The irrigation scheme is the backbone of Mataga Growth Point in Mberengwa. Its revival will transform the lives of the people of this district for the better and we are happy to see its revival,” he said. — Twitter:@pchitumba1 its status as the
President Mugabe (second from right) flanked by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa (right) and a Brazilian official at the commissioning of the farm equipment in this file photo