Farmers at the rehabilitated Silikwe Irrigation Scheme in Gwanda North have for the first time in years, managed to grow crops twice in one season — in the 2019-2020 farming season.
“No one actually believed we could grow the maize crop twice in one season,” said Mellina Moyo, secretary of the irrigation committee.
“We harvested our first maize crop in December and now we have our second crop, which we hope to harvest in April.
“All this has been made possible by having solar-powered irrigation pumps and the support we got from the Government and our development partners”.
Harvesting twice in a single season has traditionally been reserved for farmers in better rainfall regions in the country.
“This was a far-fetched idea for us before,” said Sibongumusa Ncube from Dadata Village in Gwanda North.
“We were encouraged by our extension officer and supported by Practical Action to attempt it since we had irrigation water.
“To our surprise, we managed. I earned more than $500 from selling green mealies and I also got three bags of maize from our harvest in December 2019.”
The Silikwe Irrigation Scheme collapsed in 2008 at the height of the economic crisis that hit all sectors of the economy hard.
Irrigation pipes, canals, a water pump engine and a range of equipment were vandalised leaving the community in this drought-prone area with no source of food and largely depending on handouts.
Land lay uncultivated and unutilised piling misery on the farmers in Silikwe.
The revival of the 22-hectare irrigation scheme close to Silikwe Dam, north of Gwanda town, through the Enhanced Agricultural Productivity and Resilience to Climate Change through Solar Power Irrigation (REAP) Programme brought major relief to the farmers.
Work to revive the scheme started in 2017 after Practical Action received a US$2,3 million grant from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) to implement the project.
“This investment shows how solar energy can power agricultural productivity and secure livelihoods of smallholder farmers in drought-stricken parts of the country,” said Innocent Katsande, a communications specialist at Practical Action.
“For the first time in over 10 years, farmers at Silikwe have been able not only to harvest twice in a single season but also to grow a variety of crops all year round.”
The rehabilitation of the scheme has brought cheer to farmers who now look forward to improved yields, livelihoods and food security.
Othera that benefited from the project include Sukwi, Bhopoma and Reinetsi.
There is so much hope that the rehabilitation of the irrigation schemes will ease the perennial problem of food shortages in this region.
The district is in the grip of the worst drought following poor rains this season and in the previous one.
This has led to massive crop failure and livestock deaths.
Irrigation schemes remain critical in building resilience among farmers to problems that come with climate change.
It helps farmers to exploit farmland better and also take farming as a business.
More importantly, it will help smallholder farmers to optimise their farming operations all year round.
Credits: The Herald