In­puts trans­form farm­ers’ lives

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Feature/worldwide - Pa­trick Chi­tumba Mid­lands Bu­reau Chief

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

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