Revamped Irrigation scheme benefits Zimbabwe's smallholder farmers

"With erratic rainfall, irrigation remains critical in boosting the sector. This project comes as a solution to the problem."

Dr. William Shereni, Director of Veterinary Services, Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development.

In August last year, songs of joy and sounds of ululation filled the air as hundreds of farmers gathered to celebrate the re-commissioning of an irrigation scheme for smallholders. The project commenced in June 2011 when the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) contracted the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) to be the implementing partner for the pilot research phase of the project focusing on two irrigation schemes at Fuve-Panganai in Zaka District and Rupike in Masvingo District. The research is built on a previous study undertaken in 2009, which identified the need for infrastructure rehabilitation and capacity building for local irrigators.

The commissioning ceremony was attended by all stakeholders who contributed to the project, including representatives from the Government of Zimbabwe, traditional leaders,  and private contractors, who had worked closely with IWMI to complete the physical work, and the farmers who will be major beneficiaries of the project.

Farmers were grateful to IWMI, SDC and other partners. They stated that prior to implementation of the project, the infrastructure had collapsed and they couldn’t farm properly. The farmers from both schemes pledged that they would look after the infrastructure that has been put in place. (extract from

Since this period, SAMP (Seeds and Markets Project) has been active in training and overseeing the production of crops at Rupike. Crops under production are namely navy beans, sugar beans and chillis.

The Rupike irrigation scheme is overseen by a main management committee. This in turn is reported into by a number of subcommittees, ensuring that decisions are made quickly and ratified centrally. The subcommittees cover a large number of areas such as security, finance and marketing. There are also subcommittees for the various types of crops grown such as the navy bean subcommittee and the sugar bean subcommittee. All sub-committees are elected by the main committee, and everyone works in union.

The scheme covers 100 hectares of land and each farmer is allocated a specific area. The crops when harvested, will go to the local warehouse for processing. This warehouse is currently in the process of being adapted for use by SAMP. This will greatly assist the farmers in the harvest being graded, treated and packed on site, reducing costly transport expenses.

In June 2014, a site tour and vist to Mazvingo included some interviews with some of the farmers at Rupike Irrigation Scheme.
Mrs Muzembe and Mr Muzembe currently have 0.12 hectares planted with 6kg of navy beans.  In total has 32 farmers growing navy beans and they received training on how to plant and harvest the crop. Various maintenance practices include spacing, weeding and watering. The training was initiated and provided by SAMP and Agritex to a core number of farmers in the scheme and then cascaded down to the rest of the farmers.

They are appreciative of their access to irrigation as it makes it much easier to look after their crops. The irrigation also ensures that they are able to grow crops during the dry season. The scheme and training received includes a year round rotation of crops.

If they have a good yield this season, then they intend to increase the size of the area that they intend to plant next season under irrigation.

Mrs Muzembe has been a sugar bean farmer since 1990. She is currently growing sugar beans for seed production. She currently has 0.2 hectares growing.

Mrs Muzembe planted 10kg of seed and estimates that she will harvest around 300kg of seed. She received a lot of training from SAMP and Agritex.

She hopes that the harvest will go well as it will encourage more of the Irrigation Scheme farmers to become seed production farmers.
She will use the profit from the season to pay for school fees, buy herself clothes and buy inputs for the forthcoming 2015 season.
Mrs Muzodze is growing Nua 45 in 0.25 hectares of land. She planted 20kgs of seed and is expecting to harvest around 400kg. She used 100kg of Compound D and 50kg of Compound N fertiliser. Her previous crop used mainly organic manure and she has really noticed the difference by using specialized fertilizers.
Mrs Muzodze is currently supporting six children through school, including one daughter who is at university.

Mrs Muzodze indicated she would like the SAMP programme to continue and for the committee to grow bigger as it has made such a difference to her life and the lives of those she supports. She would eventually like to buy a second hand car.

Mr Muraze has his own onion seed bed nursery. He is growing onions currently in his nursery and at almost 5 weeks old –they are ready be transplanted to the actual beds. Mr Muraze was provided training on how to do this appropriately by SAMP.  He has been growing onions for 5 years but this is his first year with this hybrid variety Heraze 105.

SAMP (Seeds and Markets Project) will be facilitating the sale of the onion to the local market.  If the onions sell well, Mr Muraze is confident that he will continue grow more next year. The profit Mr Muraze makes from this season will go towards paying the lobola (dowry) for his wife.

The farmers also stated that the project has greatly improved production and enhanced their livelihoods.