THE Southern Africa region is expected to be receiving normal to below normal rainfall for the 2018-19 owing to the El Nino phenomenon.
According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network EL Nino will have negative impact on the coming agriculture season both in terms of harvests and labor opportunities in the southern Africa region.
Agriculture is critical to Zimbabwe’s economy providing 30 percent of export earnings and contributing 19 percent to GDP, while 70 percent of the population still survives on farming.
While there is very little government can do to stop the recurrence of drought it can play a major role in mitigating its impact through enhancing the country’s irrigation capacity particularly among smallholder farmers.
According to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) the country has over has over 8000 dams with 240 registered as large dams. The authority says agriculture accounts for 80 percent of the water that is used in the water bodies it manages.
However, despite this impressive figure land under irrigation is still a challenge in the country and this is not only a problem for Zimbabwe but the entire Southern Africa sub region.
“Despite its huge agricultural potential only 7 percent of arable land is irrigated – a mere 3.4 million hectares out of 50 million hectares of arable land. This is unacceptable for a region that relies on cereals particularly maize given the crop’s sensitivity to dry spells” says Patrick Kormawa Food and Agriculture Organization Southern Africa Co-ordinator.
In Zimbabwe the government has committed to put 200 hectares of land under irrigation in each district as way of ensuring food security and offset the effects of climate change.
The government has also committed to rehabilitating and resuscitating several community irrigation projects that had collapsed in the last two decades in drought prone areas.
Some of the projects government has earmarked include the Tokwe- Mukosi and Runde- Tende dam construction which have the potential to turn the lowveld region into a green belt.
The completed Tokwe-Mukosi dam has capacity to irrigate 25 000hectares while Runde-Tende dam will have far much greater capacity.
Addressing the opening of parliament President Mnangagwa underscored the importance of agriculture to the economy and need to optimally use water bodies to enhance productivity.
“Agriculture remains a key sector in the resuscitation and growth of our economy. The restructured Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement will have an accelerated, more coordinated and composite approach to the modernization and mechanization of our agriculture sector.
As we quest to achieve maximum land utilization for increased productivity; there is need for strategic and concise planning, development and use of our water bodies throughout the country. We will be pursuing further investments and cooperation in this respect,” said Mnangagwa.
While building capacity for irrigation is noble the levies for use of water should not be probative to exclude vulnerable sections of the community in particular communal farmers.
Currently ZINWA is levying US$2 for a million litres for communal farmers, US$3 A1 farmers, US$4 A2 farmers and US$12 for commercial agriculture estates.