Failed scheme leaves 50 families landless

An ambitious irrigation scheme, championed by Vice President Joyce Mujuru in 2006, has collapsed, leaving scores of families who were forced off their farmland stranded.

Mujuru
Mujuru

The Dotito Irrigation Scheme in Mount Darwin West, Mujuru’s constituency, was the brainchild of journalist-turned-businessman, Edwin Moyo. Fifty families accuse him of misleading them into poverty.

They were ordered to surrender their communal farming plots for the irrigation scheme, which was meant to produce commercial crops for the export market, on the promise that they would be given new land.

Six years later, most of the families remain squeezed on their rural residential stands adjacent to the scheme, with no land to till. Their cries for compensation have fallen on deaf ears, and they say they cannot complain because they fear victimisation.

‘‘We are desperate. For six years we have been unable to grow food for ourselves because there is no land. We were promised farming plots, but whenever we complain we are told to shut up because the project involves big people,’’ said one woman, who has been forced to relocate to Harare to live with a relative so that she can earn income to fend for her family in Dotito.

‘‘I had no intention of living an urban life as we could adequately look after ourselves before the irrigation scheme started. It is like being forced into the diaspora,’’ said the woman, who has joined her sister in hawking second hand clothes. She is bitter that Mujuru has failed to rescue them from their plight.

‘‘Even if they produce significant amounts of vegetables, there are no markets to sell the produce,’’ said a former participant in the scheme. For three seasons from 2006, when the scheme was promising, he was part of a group that was persuaded to grow baby corn, gooseberries, peas and green beans that they surrendered to the management of the project.

‘‘We were never paid for our produce and up to now, we don’t know why. It is difficult to follow up because political heavyweights are involved,’’ he said.

Wilberforce Mutyambizi, the Chairman of the irrigation scheme, confirmed to The Zimbabwean that the families whose land was taken are yet to be compensated.

‘‘We still have plans to give them new land, but unfortunately, no land is available yet,’’ he said, adding that 95 families were farming potatoes and tomatoes, and ‘‘we are managing to get by as we are able to raise money for salt and sugar’’.

The scheme is now run-down, with the fence vandalised and most of the land overgrown with weeds and shrubs. Mutyambizi is reportedly running the project only with the assistance of his brother, Mabasa, a Zanu (PF) councillor, after the treasurer and other managers left due to frustration.

Edwin Moyo, the brains behind the project, lamented the lack of funds, saying poor financing had negatively affected the scheme.

‘‘The Dotito Irrigation Scheme was part of a grand project that we started as a way of involving local farmers in growing crops for the export market in Europe. Mai Mujuru had a lot of interest in that project because it falls in her constituency.

‘‘Unfortunately, funding has not been forthcoming, thus nothing much can be done. We applied for a loan from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe during the era of the Zimdollar, but could not get it, for reasons best known to Gono (RBZ Governor),’’ Moyo told The Zimbabwean.

He said he contributed money from his own pocket to start the project, and refuted claims that farmers who grew export crops were not paid. ‘‘I don’t know where they took their crops to because those who gave produce to us were paid; the books are there to show it’’.

Moyo, who ran a similar project at Kondozi Tea Estate in Manicaland but was forced out by politicians, borrowed $1.2 m from the Industrial Development Bank of Zimbabwe in 2006, using his company, Trans Zambezi Industries. The loan was intended to develop and pilot horticulture outgrower schemes in Dotito, Macheke and Cashel Valley.

IDBZ reportedly sourced the money from the Netherlands-based Common Fund for Commodities that helps developing countries diversify their commodity-dependent economies. Moyo was at one time reported to be facing arrest for allegedly abusing the loan, but his lawyers insisted he was clean.

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