Switzerland and the Food and Agriculture Organization hands over 14 rehabilitated irrigation schemes to smallholder farmers in Masvingo.

Article, 24.05.2019

Switzerland through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have handed over 14 rehabilitated irrigation schemes to 1’519 smallholder farmers in Masvingo Province in Zimbabwe.

Switzerland and FAO hands over 14 rehabilitated irrigation schemes to smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe.
Switzerland and FAO hands over 14 rehabilitated irrigation schemes to smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe. © Switzerland Embassy in Zimbabwe.

This marks the conclusion of the Smallholder Irrigation Programme (SIP) which was funded by the SDC to the tune of CHF 6 million (USD 6 million) and implemented since December 2014.

The official handover of the last outstanding scheme - Stanmore B Irrigation Scheme was done at a colourful ceremony at Stanmore B Irrigation scheme in Masvingo District on 17 May 2019. Stanmore B rehabilitated under the SIP has been transformed from a deserted state to being one of the best in the country. Stanmore B won the first prize of the best irrigation Scheme in Zimbabwe during the Small National Irrigation competitions held in 2018

In a speech read on his behalf, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Honourable Perrance Shiri, said the country was suffering from high vulnerability due to climate change and variation. The minister said the increased vulnerability comes at a time when agriculture is expected to propel Zimbabwe’s economic development to become a middle income country by 2030.

“The country has been experiencing increased frequency of droughts and floods, particularly what we have come through from the El Nino and Cyclone Idai. This has affected the agriculture sector and has reduced production,” said Minister Shiri.

Minister Shiri noted that the Government of Zimbabwe identified irrigation development as one way of cushioning farmers from the blow of the vagaries of climate change.

“Irrigation development is a strategic move in agriculture. It allows all year round production and builds farmers’ resilience. Irrigation development promotes business development in areas off farm thus increasing employment for youth and women. I would urge you to ensure sustainability of operations and embark on market driven production and not produce for the sake of producing,” added the minister.

Speaking at the handover, the FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa and Country Representative to Zimbabwe, a.i., Alain Onibon, said Stanmore B Irrigation Scheme was testimony to the fact that there was a solution to the droughts which have become more recurrent and drastic in the country.

“Droughts have become a big problem, but at this irrigation you are building more than your own livelihoods. What you are demonstrating on this irrigation scheme is that you are showing the country that we have a solution to the drought. We can scale this up and the country can effectively fight the droughts,” said Onibon.

Onibon said the irrigation schemes had resident farm managers, had gone into win-win business relationships with input suppliers and off-takers of produce, were linked to financial institutions and had entered commercially viable ventures which would ensure sustainability. He added that irrigation development was vital for the dry provinces of the country and urged farmers to have a sense of ownership and ensure that they maintain the schemes.

A representative from the SDC, Sharon Murinda, underlined the importance of irrigation in view of climate change. “The construction and handing over of these irrigation schemes gives practical expression of the Swiss Government’s commitment to putting food security and agriculture at the centre of development in Zimbabwe. Irrigation in itself is an act of diversifying the agriculture sector away from rain-fed farming methods especially with challenges brought about by climate change,” she said.

SIP was funded by SDC (6 Million Swiss Francs) and the European Union (6 Million Euro) to rehabilitate 34 irrigation schemes. SDC facilitated the rehabilitation of 14 irrigation schemes in Masvingo Province while the EU funded the rehabilitation of 20 irrigation schemes in Manicaland and Matabeleland South (10 irrigation schemes each). The overall objective of the irrigation project is to improve income, food and nutrition security of smallholder communal farmers involved in small scale irrigation in Zimbabwe.