Zimbabwe smallholder farmers fight climate change through irrigation
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25 June 2018
Author :   Andrew Mambondiyani

CHIMANINANIi, Zimbabwe (PAMACC News) - Willard Zano, a smallholder farmer at Chakohwa Block E Irrigation Scheme west of Chimanimani district in Zimbabwe looks at water gushing through an irrigation canal and he smiles.

Zano had every reason to smile as the recently rehabilitated irrigation scheme has brought hope to smallholder farmers in this drought ravaged region.

Experts have linked the severity and frequency of the droughts to climate change. And according to the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, enhanced water use efficiency holds key to tackling water scarcity and food security issues.

The rehabilitation of Chakohwa Block E Irrigation Scheme began in 2015 and was completed in 2017 as a collaborative effort of the local farmers, international humanitarian organisation, World Vision and various Zimbabwe government departments.

Chakohwa and other areas along the western parts of Chimanimani district are among the most arid areas in Zimbabwe, characterised by low and erratic rainfall, making rainfed agriculture virtually unsustainable.  And Chakohwa Irrigation Scheme was developed to enhance crop productivity and address food security and nutrition in the region.

“This irrigation scheme (Chakohwa Block E) has brought hope to us all,” Zano said. “We are now ready to harvest our first crop of Michigan beans”.

Chakohwa Block E Irrigation Scheme constructed with the support of World Vision Zimbabwe has 33 hectares benefiting 165 smallholder farmers.

The current crop of Michigan beans was grown under contract farming with Zimbabwe’s food processing company, Cairns Foods.

Under the contract farming initiative each farmer received 10 kgs of Michigan bean seed from Cairns Foods while World Vision supported the farmers with 100 kgs of Compound D, 12,5kg of Ammonia Nitrate and 200ml of bravo and 200ml of diathought chemicals. The farmers are assured of a ready market for their beans.

Another farmer in the irrigation scheme, Eliah Machianga weighed in, adding that the farmers in the area had never dreamed of growing cash crops, but the scheme had changed the way farmers do their business.

“We used to grow crops like millet and we never dreamed of growing cash crops like beans. The irrigation scheme has changed everything. We are expecting to grow tomatoes after harvesting beans,” he said.

Machianga said he would now be able to pay school fees for his children after selling his beans.

“Now I’m no longer worried about how I’m going to get school fees for my children and how I’m going to feed them because this irrigation scheme will bring money to us,” Machianga said.
However, Zano was quick to express fear that with the droughts becoming frequent and severe, the river which supply water for the irrigation would also soon run out of enough water for all the farmers.

“Our best option is to drill boreholes to supply water to the irrigation scheme. Harnessing underground water is the best way to go …we are not sure how long the water in the river will last,” Zano said.

World Vision Zimbabwe operations director, Khumbulani Ndlovu said the irrigation project was developed to assist local farmers and ensure they start to produce and create market linkages.

“The farmers and their children benefit through improved nutrition and household income,” Ndlovu said.

In 2016 and 2017, World Vision Zimbabwe supported other livelihoods projects, including nutrition gardens, micro irrigations schemes and three weirs benefiting more than 600 households in Chimanimani district.

The construction of the weirs was done to harvest water for irrigation in collaboration with the USAID funded Enhancing Nutrition, Stepping up Resilience and Enterprise (ENSURE) grant which was aimed at responding to the El Nino induced drought that affected communities between 2015 and 2016.
And in partnership with the Zimbabwe’s department of Irrigation and the Mhakwe community in Chimanimani, World Vision is developing Shinja Irrigation Scheme Shinja, covering 40 hectares benefiting 150 smallholder farmers.  

An engineer with the Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Agriculture, Praisegod Jiji told farmers during the commissioning of Chakohwa Block E Irrigation Scheme that the government with the support of various partners was stepping up efforts to develop irrigation schemes in the country’s dry areas to fight climate change induced food insecurity

“We want to turn all dry areas into wet areas through irrigation development,” Jiji said.
Chimanimani acting district administrator, Lloyd Kasima said he was happy with the support the government was getting from World Vision Zimbabwe to develop irrigation projects in the district.

Kasima, said the irrigation scheme should be fully utilised to enhance food security in the area.

“This is your project (irrigation scheme) and you must fully utilise it and jealously guard it,” Kasima told the farmers.

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