BULAWAYO, Friday, September 2, 1966 — Matabeleland’s arid backyard near Beitbridge is being hailed a s another Hippo Valley.
A handful of South Africa born farmers are turning what was desolate veld into thousands of acres of lush irrigated land.
Thousands of rows of export quality citrus trees are said to yield more than the average South African trees. The quality of the cotton is being lauded as among the world’s top grade.
Vegetables under irrigation now sprawl over hundreds of acres of formerly parched land. The six farmers, now all Rhodesian citizens, bought the land for less than 10s an acre over the past 12 years. They now value the irrigated sections at £200 an acre and the uncleared, irrigable land at £100 an acre. Yet the scheme is still in an embryonic stage.
The secret of their triumph is their method of drawing hundreds of thousands of gallons of water every hour from the beds of the Limpopo and Umzingwani Rivers. They call it the spider system — but by any other name the lifeless rivers, weighted down with 30ft of sand, have been forced to yield their hidden wealth of liquid.
Steel pipes grip the sand surface and reach down 15ft.There at the lowest level of the silent pools, the water is sucked through the pipes. It is drawn to the surface to gush along a maze of canals for flood irrigation.
Three of the farmers, Mr S Cawoood, Mr B Knott and Mr J Bristow, have irrigated more than 3 000 acres of land- entirely from private finances. Liebig’s which saw the potential of the land after they sold 150 000 acres, stopped selling three years ago.
A spokesman for the firm said it was now drawing 1 000 000 gallons of water a day from the dry bed of the Umzingwani River, through the same spider system.
It is irrigating several hundred acres of land while its long term plan is to make its ranches self supporting in cattle feed and in food for its labour force.