Irrigation schemes transform lives

The lives of many villagers in the drought-prone Matabeleland South province have been transformed following the setting up and rehabilitation of irrigation schemes in the province by a local NGO.

Juliet Bethule: 49 irrigation schemes, all gravity fed.
Juliet Bethule: 49 irrigation schemes, all gravity fed.

Pro Africa Development Trust, working with implementing partners such as the African Women’s Initiative in Developing Economies, government agencies and farmers unions, has turned most parts of the province into green areas.

“Pro Africa has set up 49 irrigation schemes in all the districts in the province. All schemes are gravity fed and no pumping is required,” said Juliet Bethule, a field officer.

Some of the areas which have been turned into green belts of horticultural produce are Mtoli, Makokwe and Lushumbe areas in Gwanda. Pro Africa runs similar irrigation projects in Umzingwani, Matobo and Beitbridge districts.

“We are also assisting farmers with up-dated agricultural technology from research institutions. Since Matabeleland South is a perennially dry area, our emphasise is sustainable agriculture through organic farming. Since we started the project in 2000 the livelihood of some communities has drastically improved,” said Bethule.

Pro Africa in conjunction with AWIDE is also assisting farmers in marketing as well as adding value to their produce.

“AWIDE is complementing Pro Africa’s poverty eradication and self reliance efforts in Matabeleland‘s drought prone areas by helping the farmers unlock value in their produce as well as linking them to markets. There is no point in equipping farmers with good farming skills and resources such water if they cannot market their crops,” said Busi Chitewe, a coordinator with AWIDE.

A farmer in Makwakwa area in Gwanda, Choice Tshabangu, said she had benefited immensely from the two organisations.

“Before Pro Africa and AWIDE came to our rescue, I used to buy grain from the Grain Marketing Board every year because the rainfall we receive here is very low. Since I was allocated a plot at Makwakwa irrigation scheme in 2001, life has not been the same for my family. I have been able to send my two children to the National University of Science and Technology through produce from my market,” said Tshabangu.

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