High input costs affect irrigation schemes

The high cost of inputs coupled by lack of government support has resulted in under-utilisation of irrigation schemes in Middle Sabi. Smallholder farmers in Mutema and Chibuwe irrigation schemes said they were failing to fully utilise their land to boost food security and raise income because the cost of fertilisers and chemicals was beyond their reach.

Dennis Sithole, a local farmer said the high cost of inputs had impacted greatly on production. Farmers also cry foul over high water tariffs being levied by Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), saying they were not justified considering that water is a “free gift from God”. Agritex Extension Officer Naume Mayakayaka confirmed that irrigation schemes were unde-rutilided as a result of high cost of inputs and water levies.

“Water levies are high and smallscale farmers can’t pay. There is need for Zinwa revise their tariff downwards,” said Mayakayaka. She also said there was need for market linkage system for farmers producing sugar beans and tomato.

“The local market is poor and there is need to link farmers to better markets. They are being ripped off by unscrupulous buyers from Harare who take advantage of their desperation to buy at rock bottom prices, leaving farmers with no capital to plough back into their business,” said Mayakayaka. Irrigation schemes have the potential to changes the lives of hundreds of farmers if they are fully utilised and supported.

Zimbabwe projects a crop of 3,300 tonnes of sugar beans this year following an increased number of communal farmers growing the crop. Last year, 1,415 tonnes was produced. The GMB has pegged the price at $1,300 per tonne. Sugar beans account for a significant percentage in the gross agricultural production of the country and the government has been on a drive to promote their production to boost food security, especially in drought-prone areas like Masvingo, parts of the Midlands and Matabeleland.

There are over 1,000 small scale farmers at Chibuwe, Tawona, Mutema and Musikavanhu irrigation schemes.

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