Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter
Government is in the process of developing regulations to compel irrigation scheme beneficiaries to contribute towards maintenance of the structures for the creation of a revolving fund and timely maintenance of the equipment.
The fund will also enable the department to continue rehabilitating irrigation schemes and timeously attend to faults.
This was said by Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Department of Irrigation Development deputy director Engineer Chitsungo.
He said the department was working towards rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure using the target under the Public Service Investment Programme (PSIP), to increase areas under irrigation from the estimated 170 000 hectares that are functional nationally to at least 300 000 hectares.
He said this would enable farmers to produce crops throughout the year.
Eng Chitsungo said the department expected farmers to contribute towards the operations and maintenance fund by paying a levy of $50 per hectare per annum, but said farmers were not honouring the obligation.
“If farmers contribute towards the fund, it means the operations account becomes a revolving fund and we are able to intervene or timeously respond for our conceptualisation as not all farmers have the same problem and at the same time.
“We are currently developing or reviewing some legislation to enforce some of these policy positions that the beneficiaries must also contribute to the development of the sector,” he said.
Eng Chitsungo said when developing irrigation under the PSIP, the department regarded irrigation as a business and, therefore, expected beneficiaries to start generating revenue and contributing to the economy.
“So wherever they are, they must do something that brings profits and pay that levy of $50 per year. Our capacity to develop more irrigation schemes is enhanced if they honour that levy,” he said.
Eng Chitsungo said the department was trying to reach out to farmers, creating awareness on the importance of contributing towards the maintenance levy, but their efforts were being negatively affected by mobility challenges.
“The department is facing challenges in terms of operational resources like vehicles.
“The fleet we used to have is now grounded and we mostly work in areas with bad roads. We are failing to monitor some of our projects,” he said.
Eng Chitsungo expressed concern over the departure of experienced staff for greener pastures.