By Farirai Machivenyika
Acting President Constantino Chiwenga yesterday launched the second phase of the centre pivot irrigation facility under a special maize production initiative being spearheaded by Government in partnership with Pedstock Investments, indicating only deserving farmers should benefit from the scheme.
The launch was conducted at Farnley Farm in Chegutu and will see the installation of 80 centre pivots at selected farms across the country.
In his address to the gathering, the Acting President said agriculture was important for the economic development of the country.
"The thrust in the sector is to increase and sustain agricultural production and productivity, given that 70 percent of the population depends on it for their livelihood," he said.
"It is pleasing to note that the country is endowed with abundant water bodies and that Government is making concerted efforts towards utilising these water bodies for the benefit of farmers for greater agricultural productivity," said the Acting President.
He said Government was working to put more land under irrigation countrywide.
"At present the area equipped with irrigation infrastructure in Zimbabwe is 220 000ha of which irrigation facilities for 175 000ha is functional, leaving 45 000ha requiring refurbishment," he said.
"Government is implementing the National Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation Programme, which is targeting to establish at least 200ha of irrigation in every district in the next 10 years," said Acting President Chiwenga.
The first phase of the centre pivot irrigation facility was launched at the end of 2016 targeting A2 and institutional farms and 80 centre pivots were installed, with 73 already operational.
"The total land under irrigation on these properties is 2 920ha out of an expected 3 200ha.
"Phase 2 of the facility is already being implemented and shall bring in 80 more centre pivots whose total irrigation area amounts to 2 900ha. To date, 20x40ha centre pivots have been delivered into the country, while 20km pipes have also been secured for such schemes," he said.
The Acting President said beneficiaries of the programme should be farmers with adequate supplies of water and power, those with existing pump houses, farmers with land already cleared, with proven production records, with qualified farm managers and those with paid up accounts from Command Agriculture.
The prospective beneficiaries should also be creditworthy with a potential to pay a 10 percent deposit while those who have not benefited from previous programmes and facilities have an advantage.
"Let me underscore that we need farmers with a business perspective that can sustain the gains made through the special maize production.
"This requires concerted efforts by all stakeholders to consolidate the public/private partnerships to enhance productivity and, most importantly, to contribute to the saving or generation of the much needed foreign currency for our country," said Acting President Chiwenga.
Government has pinned the success of Command Agriculture on irrigation as reliance on rainfed agriculture has proven risky.