FAO in Zimbabwe

FAO Supported Irrigation Scheme Wins First Prize in National Competition

Jubilant Stanmore B farmers after receiving a trophy for being the best irrigation scheme in Zimbabwe in 2018

08 January 2019, Masvingo, Zimbabwe - An irrigation scheme which was rehabilitated by FAO working directly with Government of Zimbabwe and with support from the Swiss Development and Cooperation (SDC) was judged the best in the 2018 national irrigation competition. Stanmore B, located in Masvingo Province, beat 252 other irrigation schemes from across the country to emerge the best.

This irrigation scheme, which had become derelict by 2012, was rehabilitated under the Smallholder Irrigation Programme, which is funded by both the SDC and the European Union. This particular irrigation scheme, which is owned by 32 smallholder farmers, was rehabilitated between 2015 and 2016 before farming activities resumed in 2017. It is one of the 14 irrigation schemes that were rehabilitated with funding from SDC in the Masvingo province. 20 other schemes (10 each in Manicaland and Matabeleland South) were supported by the EU.

The irrigation schemes competition, held annually, is championed by the Government of Zimbabwe. All irrigation schemes which are 10 hectares or larger were considered in the competition.

Speaking at a colourful event to announce the overall winner of the competition held at the irrigation scheme, the Principal Director in the crops and livestock production department, in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Joseph Gondo, who was standing in for the minister, said the new thrust of the government was to ensure that more irrigation schemes were developed to help fight hunger.

Gondo urged the farmers at Stanmore B and others across the country to take farming as a business and plan well as it presented them with an opportunity to earn better livelihood.

Officer in Charge for the FAO Subregional Office for Southern Africa, Gabriele Ranieri, said by winning the coveted prize, Stanmore B irrigation scheme had proven that the approach adopted under Smallholder Irrigation Programme works and it should be replicated.

“We have always maintained that irrigations are important for cushioning farmers from the blow of shocks, particularly brought about by climate change. With irrigation, we are sure that farmers are no longer at the mercy of the vagaries of unpredictable seasons especially where we have intermittent rains. Additionally, we have also shown that the comprehensive approach adopted by FAO, the Government of Zimbabwe as well as the funding partners, works well and we hope this is going to be replicated throughout the country, particularly at a time when the country is doubling efforts to establish irrigation schemes,” said Ranieri.

The adjudicators said they looked at a number of issues to come up with the overall winner and these included levels of production, the leadership or management of the scheme, water management, repair and maintenance of infrastructure on site, the security set up and how records were kept. In addition, the team of judges also looked at the marketing strategy, health and hygiene issues as well as how the scheme members interacted with the community.

Brian Nhlema, the FAO Irrigation Programme Manager, said the irrigation schemes rehabilitated under the Smallholder Irrigation Programme had done so well at both district and provincial level.

“All the irrigation schemes rehabilitated under the Programme topped at all the district level competitions and two out of three topped at the provincial level competitions.

 The Smallholder Irrigation Programme’s objective is to improve income, food and nutrition security of smallholder communal farmers involved in small scale irrigation in Zimbabwe. This is being achieved through sustainably increasing production, productivity and profitability of smallholder irrigated agriculture in targeted schemes in communal and old resettlement areas of Zimbabwe.

Some of the achievements include the restoration and increasing of functional capacity of installed irrigation infrastructure and equipment at targeted schemes. Enhancing the capacity of smallholder farmers in crop production and scheme management as well as promoting agribusiness development in smallholder irrigation.