President Mnangagwa has called for high levels of commitment by farmers especially those near water bodies to ensure high productivity and subsequent food sufficiency.
There are serious concerns over under-utilisation of vast water bodies and irrigation facilities across Zimbabwe.
However, farmers’ representatives called for a special subsidy on electricity, water and other utilities should be introduced to ensure uptake of irrigation. The President was meeting commercial farmers and miners from Mashonaland West province ahead of a Star Rally held at the Chinhoyi University of Technology Sports Grounds on Tuesday.
“As we were flying here to Mashonaland West province, there were a lot of weirs that I saw. The weirs are unused and are just for watching and watching.
“We are not using the water. That should be a thing of the past. We shall need people who commit themselves to agriculture if they want to be in the sector.
“If you are near water and you are not using it, there is no need for you to be there. We can put you elsewhere.”
To produce two million tonnes of grain, Zimbabwe needs to put at least 350 000 hectares each season under irrigation to ensure food sufficiency, whether there is a drought or not.
The irrigation development programme, President Mnangagwa said, was unfolding through facilities from Brazil and Belarus among others.
However, Zimbabwe Farmers Union second vice president Mr Berean Mukwende told the President that high utility bills were a deterrent for most farmers who could venture into irrigation.
“Our major challenge, is the issue of exorbitant tariffs for things that are produced locally like electricity. We have so many dams and weirs across the country but they are not being used for irrigation.
“Irrigation is far behind other countries because of the high electricity tariffs. That needs to be looked at so that more people getting into irrigation.”
Historically, he said, farmers paid about 55 percent of electricity and water tariffs after subsidies from Government which saw high uptake of irrigation farming.
He added: “We find it very disturbing that the tariff for someone operating a bottle store and night club is paying the same tariff with farmers who produce the barley and sorghum used for their products.”
President Mnangagwa, however, acknowledged the high electricity cost for farmers saying Government was looking into the issue.
“I am also a victim when it comes to energy. The issue of energy in the farms is a very serious issue. I know that because I am also affected. You find a farmer getting bills when they have never run the pivots, yet still the bills come,” he said.
He said the Minister of Energy and Power Development will look into the issue. – BH24.