Prolonged dry spell, wake-up call for seriousness on irrigation schemes
Farirai Machivenyika Mr Speaker Sir
The prolonged dry spell that the whole country witnessed throughout January is a wake-up call to the powers that be of the need to expedite establishment of dams and irrigation schemes across the country if the nation is to have guaranteed food self-sufficiency.
Most parts of the country received little to no rainfall in the past month resulting in crops being declared a write-off. In some areas, the rains received in the past two days or so have raised hope that something can be salvaged from what has been a disappointing season.
r Speaker Sir, the erratic rains received so far this cropping season are a cause for concern and likely to have a negative impact on our growth prospects this year.
What we, therefore, need Mr Speaker Sir, is to have all stakeholders come together to craft policies that will ensure enhanced planning towards irrigation.
Mr Speaker, such planning needs to look at what can be achieved in the short to medium term and ultimately in the long term so that we are not caught flat footed if the heavens decide to shut their gates.
This should not be too difficult a task, Mr Speaker Sir, given that we have a number of dams across the country with irrigation infrastructure that in the short term may only need rehabilitation.
What it, therefore, means is that planning for the 2018/2019 season should start now with the identification of farms that already have such infrastructure and can be used in the short term.
Our problem, Mr Speaker Sir, has been a lack of clear policy, especially towards irrigation and also discord that previously affected implementation of programmes in Government.
Now that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has also set out Government’s intention to target an initial 2 000 hectares in each province to be put under irrigation, it is up to the various Government ministries and departments to work flat out to ensure that the President’s directive is implemented.
Mr Speaker Sir, this means such entities like Arda and those private players whose raw materials are derived from farming, must be actively involved in investing in irrigation infrastructure development.
This will not only ensure productivity on farms, but also save the country scarce foreign currency that can be channelled to procurement of other necessities that we cannot produce locally.
Mr Speaker Sir, if all of us could be proactive on this issue we could deal with the issue of low productivity on our farms and food shortages once and for all.
We can’t be continuously importing food when we have land and the knowledge at our disposal.
Mr Speaker Sir, it is also commendable that Government has moved to award the remaining white commercial farmers 99-year leases in an effort to restore confidence in the agricultural sector.
It is our hope that this new Government pronouncement, coupled with others putting a moratorium on new farm occupations and pledges to compensate former white farmers whose land was taken for resettlement, will go a long way to show that Government is genuinely trying to boost productivity in the sector.
The issue of land tenure has affected all farmers including indigenous ones and it is our hope that mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that all farmers, especially under the A2 model, are given leases to enable them to access working capital.
As stated above, what is now needed is a comprehensive policy that addresses the various issues inhibiting our farmers from achieving their full potential, from shortages of machinery and irrigation equipment to access to working capital.
Such a move, Mr Speaker Sir, will provide clear direction on whether we are going to take maximum advantage of the opportunities we have in this very important sector in our economy.
Mr Speaker Sir, Government should be commended for the efforts it is making and it is now up to the various players that include the farmers, banks and industry to also play ball and be part of these efforts meant to revive the sector.
The goodwill that has been generated around the new administration of President Mnangagwa should galvanise all of us to do more in our various stations to ensure that Zimbabwe gets its rightful place in terms of food self-sufficiency.
That will also revive various sectors that depend on agriculture for raw materials, while at the same time generating the foreign currency that we so much require at the moment.
It is up to Parliament, Mr Speaker Sir, to also exercise its role in ensuring that the various pronouncements by Government are implemented and do not end up gathering dust in some file somewhere in an official’s office.
The efforts being made by Government should be complemented by all other arms of the State and our hope is that the zeal we are witnessing in Parliament so far this year is carried throughout to ensure success of the various policies that Government has adopted.
In conclusion Mr Speaker Sir, it is our hope that the rains we are receiving will continue, so that farmers can salvage something from what has generally been a disappointing season.
The rains were long overdue and whatever we can get from what remains of the season will go a long way in adding to what we got from last year’s bumper harvest.