Zimbabwe launches irrigation support scheme for smallholder farmers

Zimbabwe has launched a 20-million-U.S.-dollar Smallholder Irrigation Infrastructure Development Fund meant to boost rural incomes and ensure food self-sufficiency.

The fund, which is expected to create at least 20,000 jobs, will benefit 18 smallholder irrigation projects, the Herald newspaper, a government-controlled media, reported Thursday.

According to the newspaper, the facility will be funded by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development using part of the country’s allocation of 958 million U.S. dollars from the 650 billion U.S. dollars in Special Drawing Rights granted to member countries in 2021.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube and Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development Anxious Masuka on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding, under which the finance ministry would finance the program while the agriculture ministry would be the implementing partner.

Ncube said the main objective of the facility was to ensure food and nutrition self-sufficiency for vulnerable smallholder farmers.

The 18 irrigation schemes cover about 2,700 hectares with about 4,500 households in the country’s eight rural provinces. Harare and Bulawayo metropolitan provinces will not benefit.

“The initiative will go a long way in enhancing climate proofing to the vulnerable, ensuring food and nutrition security,” Ncube said. “The scheme intends to provide employment directly to more than 20,000 people.”

In his response, Masuka said the initiative would help develop a sector that had been neglected for a long time.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union chief executive Paul Zakariya said the initiative would help address the long-term effects of climate change.

“This is a welcome development because our seasons are getting drier and drier, so the most effective way of addressing water challenges and ensuring productivity is to harness water and develop irrigation schemes,” he said.

The country has about 450 smallholder irrigation schemes covering at least 26,000 hectares, but many of them are not operating to capacity because of operational problems.

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