FARMERS IN LAND POSER
…villagers stand to lose huge tracks of land
FARMERS in Sinazongwe are on the verge of losing over 100 acres of farming land under the Nzenga irrigation scheme after a named company, with the help of the chief, took over the operations of the scheme from the villagers and then applied for a loan from the Vision Fund, using the facility as collateral.
In 2007, the scheme was registered as Nzenga Irrigation Cooperative Society Limited under registration No. 14931 and in 2013, Government trained the farmers on how to grow crops using irrigation before they surrendered their farm land to pave way for commencement of works.
Before the scheme started operating, Chief Sinazongwe allegedly connived with that company and convinced the villagers to surrender the operations of the scheme, alleging that Government had abolished cooperatives and that all irrigation schemes were to be run by private companies.
He said the company would run the scheme with the locals and that those whose land had been given to the scheme would receive dividends after each harvest and that an outgrower scheme would be initiated to provide a ready market for the farmers’ produce.
Satisfied that the idea would work to their benefit, the farmers surrendered the operations of the scheme to the private company but that since 2015 when it started using the scheme, none of the farmers have received any dividends. When the farmers complained, the company started pushing for a loan from Vision Fund using the scheme as collateral after the chief promised them that he would give them another piece of land in another village close to Lake Kariba.
When the villagers heard their scheme was to be used as collateral they demanded that a letter be written to the company to stop using the irrigation scheme and not to use it as collateral because it was in the hands of the community.
Village headman, Thomson Simukande, yesterday told the Daily Nation in an interview that the villagers had found themselves in the current situation because the chief was not sincere as he had “sold their birth-right”. “After we discovered that the company wanted to get a loan using our scheme as collateral, we told him to write to them and tell them to stop meddling in our affairs. Today (yesterday), we demanded to see a copy of that letter and to our shock, he lied that we had consented to the loan and we demanded that he corrects that impression because that is not what we told him.
“We are very disappointed with the operations of our chief but we want to make it clear that we would rather die fighting over our land than allowing this chief and the company to play games with our lives,” Mr. Simukande said. When contacted for a comment, Member of Parliament Gift Sialubalo said officials from the same company had contacted him some time back asking for assistance to enable them secure a loan but that he told them to show him the documents but that they had never done so.
Meanwhile, villagers in Sinazongwe village are also up in arms with the chief and have rejected any manoeuvres to force them to surrender their land to the same company and have vowed of grave consequences if the chief continued with his idea of displacing them from their land. In one of the letters dated August 20, 2018 which the chief wrote to the district commissioner after an initial attempt to displace people and pave way to the private company to set up an irrigation scheme was rebuffed, the traditional leader asked the DC to send police officers to arrest all those opposed to the idea. “I am writing to you DC. The project should start with immediate effect. The three families cannot stop the project from taking off. These just want to cause a fight and must be arrested until the irrigation project is completed. Please, the police must take charge,” reads the letter in part.