By Funny Hudzerema
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) will provide irrigation facilities to more than 2000 families in Manicaland before the end of the year as part of its Smallholder Irrigation Support Programme which seeks to protect rural farmers from climate change and frequent droughts.
Speaking during a graduation ceremony of irrigation engineers, FAO representative for Zimbabwe David Phiri said the organisation is committed to assisting the Government to construct and rehabilitate irrigation schemes to increase agricultural production in the rural areas.
“FAO has introduced the Smallholder Irrigation Support Programme aimed at improving the rural agriculture but Government support is critical.
“This will be done through, improving irrigation infrastructure, capacity development of farmers to practice irrigation farming as a business and strengthening of community-level Irrigation Management Committees,” he said.
A survey conducted by FAO indicated that 70 percent of the population of Zimbabwe live in rural areas that are characterised by low and unpredictable rainfall patterns.
He said the country’s irrigation system has been affected by lack of funding, siltation of local dams and canals and these issues could be addressed to maintain food security.
Currently only 61 percent (10 000 ha) of total land equipped with irrigation facilities is functional.
“We remain committed to addressing capacity gaps through mixed strategies, including development of appropriate technical information, specific studies and professional exchange, provision of material resources for strategic projects implementation and technical backstopping of counterparts,” he said.
He also said in 2016 FAO is also planning to train other irrigation engineers to help rural farmers.
In a speech read on his behalf during the same event, Secretary for Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Ringson Chitsiko said the Government is working on policies which support the irrigation farmers to reduce food shortages in the country.
“The Government is committed to making the Smallholder Irrigation Development Programme a success by developing both institutional innovations and enabling policies that can ensure adaptation of new irrigation technologies in the agriculture sector,” he said.
He also said agriculture productivity is being affected by frequent droughts and effects of climate change leading to crop failure hunger and poverty hence irrigation development and training is critical.