Irrigation projects improves rural farmers livelihoods

Irrigation projects improves rural farmers livelihoods
December 06 13:24 2018
By Masline Mavudzi

Since 2001, Sphiwe Juto a smallholder farmer has been able to sustain herself through farming. However, until this year she has never made enough money due to constant breakdown of the engine that pumps water from the dam as it needs repairs that cost her and fellow farmers a lot of money.

Juto a 63-year-old woman is one of the beneficiaries from Nyaitenga and Chitora irrigation projects in Mutoko, Mashonaland East province funded by International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD).

Although, horticulture is a potentially profitable industry in Mash East, it has its challenges. Profits depends on the quality of the crop and access to market but with IFAD coming in to revive agriculture in Zimbabwe for the next three years, small holder farmers like Juto have hope to become more productive.

“We started farming in 2001 April within our plots. Our first produce included carrots and peas. We constructed some temporary structure here so that we could be close to our projects. The intervention by IFAD and DANIDA up to 2003 has helped my level of farming even though it was suspended. I have also managed to sustain myself and family and since the project started, I now own cattle, chicken and sheep, live in an asbestos- roofed house and am able to send my children to school.

“One of the major problems we have is the constant breakdown of pumps which when repaired only lasts 3 weeks. An arrangement has been made with the department of irrigation in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement so that it takes over the maintenance of the equipment and as farmers we are contributing 25 dollars per head,” she said.

Market access, adding value to products and boosting provision of services for smallholder farmers could be a powerful mechanism to end poverty, especially in rural areas of the country.

“Since we started, we have never failed to produce anything. We are able to sustain our selves and taking farming as a business, we help by creating employment in our society. We have a vision that if we partner with bigger markets, we can have cold storages and pack sheds close to our irrigation schemes. This helps buyers to come and buy products at the farm gate. It also helps reduce transport costs and accommodation. If we can have that we can improve our farm products. We will be able to diversify our work like welding and be able to repair some of the machinery we use,” said Maxwell Samanyanga a farmer from Chitora irrigation project.

During his tour of Nyaitenga and Chitora irrigation schemes, IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo said investing in smallholder farmers would reduce hunger and poverty in the rural areas of developing countries.

“What is very striking is to see human capital consumed by small holder farmers as you can see the level of dedication is high in Africa. Clearly the level of the farming technics they are using are naturally higher than what we see in traditional farming. So, the ambition that they want to grow, the need to scale up from what they are doing will ensure improved productivity. The challenges the small holder farmers are facing include access to markets, how to add value and the basic level of conformity in value adding.” he said.

Around the world agriculture sector has failed to attract youths who are heading to cities in search of work. Most farmers around the world are an ageing demography. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, in Africa where 60 percent of the continent’s population is under 24, the average age of farmers is 60 years old.

“What we are trying to do as IFAD is to encourage our youth to really embrace agriculture not as for survival activities but as a genuine way to earn a decent living, a decent salary just like being a lawyer, journalist or carpenter and this to me in that direction is the right direction. One man also commented that even if they were to be offered a job in Harare, he would not take the offer, that is what I would like to hear more and more from our youth. It is important that they embrace the rural conformity. Zimbabwe is a country which has a lot of natural blessings. Yes, there are some short challenges that I do believe as a nation if you come together am very positive that the ambition of becoming a bread basket again will be achieved,” Mr Houngbo said.

“Clearly, I think smallholder farmers need to make their voice heard from the local authority to the national authority. I also do believe they need to always look at ways to increase their productivity and the funders and the government have to also have better access to market information and access to markets. I am very very positive.  We should also empower women and allow them to chair the committee. Equal participation of women leads to better outcomes and lasting change,” added Mr Houngbo.

IFAD is currently supporting a new smallholder irrigation revitalization programme (SIRP) which started in January this year. The programme will vitalise 6,100 hectares in 152 existing smallholder irrigation schemes and benefit 148,750 smallholder farmers in the provinces of Manicaland, Masvingo, Matebelaland South and Midlands.

Since 1983, IFAD has co-financed six rural development programmes and projects in Zimbabwe at a total cost of US$266.9 million, with IFAD investment of US$95.6 million. These programmes and projects have directly benefited 1,168,00 rural households country-wide.



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