Takunda Maodza Manicaland Bureau Chief
A state-of-the-art irrigation facility installed by Government at Almar Farm in Manicaland Province under the Brazilian “More Food International Programme” is lying idle over four years after it was commissioned as the Department of Irrigation has been dragging its fit on testing the equipment.
The development speaks volumes about how bureaucracy is handicapping development at grassroots level.
The facility that runs into thousands of dollars also comprises two tractors, hose reels, planters and disc harrows that have been gathering dust since 2015 when the project was launched but never took off the ground.
This is despite the fact that pipes drawing water from the nearby Odzi River were laid in 2015.
Under the project, about 130 hectares of land are supposed to have been put under irrigation.
When The Herald visited the farm, which is in Mutare North constituency, last week, beneficiaries of the project had no kind words for officials from the irrigation department in Mutare whom they feel are sleeping on duty.
“I do not want to lie to you. I will be frank; the irrigation officials in Mutare have let us down. They have been sleeping on duty since 2015 when the project was commissioned under the Brazilian facility, and this explains why up to now nothing is happening here even though the irrigation infrastructure has been laid” said an irate Mrs Ruth Magwaza.
She is among the 13 beneficiaries of the programme after she was allocated 10 hectares.
There are 13 farmers who must jointly use the facility.
Mrs Magwaza harvested 15 tonnes of maize last farming season and argues she could have produced more had her crop been under irrigation.
What pains her most is the fact that the irrigation infrastructure was installed in 2015 but responsible officials in the department of irrigation in Mutare do not seem to be in a hurry four years later.
“Since 2015 this facility has been lying idle and some of the equipment is now in bad state owing to lack of maintenance,” she added.
Another beneficiary, Mr Laxon Sauti, said they had made follow-ups with the officials to no avail.
“We ended up seeking intervention from Harare. I came from Buhera, a dry region, and I am eager to produce for my family and the nation but we are being let down by people in offices in Mutare,” said Mr Sauti.
“It is shocking that since 2015, the irrigation department in Mutare has failed to deliver on this project. Our job as farmers is farming but we are being let down,” chipped in another farmer, Mr Fred Mutsonziwa.
Mutare North legislator and Zanu-PF Manicaland provincial chair Cde Mike Madiro also expressed displeasure at the state of affairs at Almar Farm.
He has also made follow- ups without success.
Department of Irrigation head for Manicaland Engineer Tendai Chimunhu confirmed to The Herald yesterday that indeed everything is in place at Almar Farm.
“What remains is just testing. We sent a team there last week and everything is still in place. The equipment that was missing is now in place. We are supposed to go and test the system,” he said.
Government has pinned agriculture success on irrigation as rainfed farming has proven difficult due to climate change.