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Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
China Lesso Group has offered to partner Government in the development of irrigation schemes using the latest technologies that conserve water and are powered by solar energy.
A seven-member delegation from the Chinese firm has been in the country since last weekend. Yesterday, it met Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri and officials from his ministry to discuss the possible partnerships.
The delegation was invited by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa after she visited the company during her recent trip to China.
Addressing the media after the meeting, Minister Shiri said Lesso Group offered solutions that would change the face of agriculture once implemented.
“The company is offering us some smart solutions to our agriculture and it’s introducing to us some irrigation model that uses the latest technologies,” said Minister Shiri.
“They have taken note of the challenges we are facing in respect of power supply and they are proposing that we use solar power for various scales from household irrigation needs up to commercial agriculture. They are also proposing that we use some water saving models of irrigation. You can see that with the drought we had last year and the drought we are experiencing now, the water levels have depleted, so there is need to conserve water hence the technology they are suggesting will be quite handy.”
Minister Shiri said the modalities of any deal would be made public once they agreed on a number of issues.
“Once we finalise the negotiations and the investment involved, we will be able to change the face of agriculture in the country.
“It’s a process (the negotiations). You have to go through all the due diligences and agree on the financing model and the extent of the hectarage covered under the agreed scheme. So it’s still work in progress,” he said.
The minister said climate change had negatively affected the country’s agriculture with farmers risking losses if the current dry spell persisted.
“We are faced with a challenge of climate change and this season we are faced with the prospect of a severe drought, but we hope the situation will improve. Our farmers risk losing their crops, especially those without irrigation. However, those with irrigation facilities also face a challenge of availability of electricity because of the low water levels at Kariba Dam that have affected electricity generation.
“I hope farmers took heed of my call to dedicate some of their land to the growing of traditional grains which can do better in these dry conditions,” he said.
The Chinese delegation toured eight farms in Mashonaland West, Midlands and Matabeleland South to assess the irrigation technologies being used by local farmers. They also toured President Mnangagwa’s Pricabe Farm in Sherwood on the outskirts of Kwekwe.