GOVERNMENT is targeting to put 307 000 hectares under irrigation as it intensifies efforts to proof Zimbabwe’s agriculture against the effects of climate change.
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.
According to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, and Rural Resettlement Dr John Basera, Zimbabwe has the potential to put over two million hectares under irrigation but currently only 175 000 hectares is under irrigation making the country vulnerable to drought and climate change.
Dr Basera said exposure to drought has resulted in the economy contracting whenever a drought hits Zimbabwe.
“Our agriculture has been vulnerable to climate change since 1947 and whenever we have a drought, there is a significant impact on our economy and the GDP goes down. We need to climate proof our agriculture by rolling out irrigation schemes and our target is to put 307 000 hectares under irrigation by 2023,” Dr Basera said.
“We have the Maka resources which will put 80 000 hectares under irrigation and 200 hectares per district and these schemes will help us reach our target.”
Currently Zimbabwe is in the throes of a second consecutive underwhelming agricultural season which has left millions of citizens requiring food assistance and constrained economic growth.
However, Basera says by utilising Zimbabwe’s vast water bodies and rehabilitating existing irrigation schemes, the country’s vulnerability to climate change can be significantly mitigated.
“We have water bodies that can irrigate over 2 million hectares and Zimbabwe is the most dammed country north of the Limpopo.
We need to take advantage of that comparative advantage. At the moment we can irrigate 2 million hectares but we have 175 000 and when we discount 40-50 000 hectares under sugarcane, we are left with 125 000k under irrigation so we are obviously not utilising our irrigation capacity.
Annually we put 2. 8m hectares under crops so if we take 125 000 under irrigation then we have a paltry 3-5 percent under irrigation meaning, we are 95 percent exposed to drought.”