…Resuscitation of Zimbabwe’s first irrigation scheme near completion after 15-years redundancy
NYANYADZI irrigation scheme in Chimanimani district in Manicaland, is the first irrigation scheme in Zimbabwe built in 1934. However, since 2000, the gravity fed irrigation schemes productivity dropped and eventually became moribund due to heavy siltation of its river systems upstream, irrigation canals, weir and night storage dam.
Through a pilot Scaling up Climate Change Adaptation (SCCA) programme with focus on rural areas, Oxfam in partnership with SAFIRE, the Departments of Irrigation, Mechanisation and Agritex in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisition and Irrigation Development, Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, Chimanimani Rural District Council and local communities, working under the Government of Zimbabwe -UNDP/GEF (Global Environment Facility) grant support, the Nyanyadzi irrigation scheme will soon be resuscitated putting an end to its siltation woes that were not only affecting the scheme but also threatening to dry out Chimanimani’s biggest river upstream.
The 412.38 hectares scheme which directly benefits 721 farmers once revitalised is expected to increase the potential farmer income from the current US$2844 to $US6479 per annum by the fourth year after investment, as well as increasing the crop potential to six crops including, green maize, groundnuts, sugar beans, tomatoes, onions and wheat, with an all year round cropping calendar.
Project technician from the Mechanisation department, Aaron Mwanasawani said unlike previous attempts to rehabilitate the irrigation scheme that just focused on de-silting the canals, the SCCA rehabilitation process would focus on conservation and irrigation as well as the root causes.
“We are focusing not only on the problem at hand of resuscitating the irrigation scheme, but on the root causes as well, which start with massive siltation upstream at the weir. So at the moment, weir de-siltation is now at 90 percent and irrigation canal de-siltation is in progress with 4km of the canal de-silted by an excavator and manual labour by community volunteers. Re-vegetation is being conducted to support the structural measures whilst the establishment of conservation works like diversion drains, silt traps and gulley checks has managed to protect the irrigable land of about 15Ha,” said Mwanasawani, last week Wednesday during the project tour by development partners.
61-year old Phillip Chabuda of Nyanhanda Village could not hide his joy especially this year when there was heavy rainfall. He said the silt trap at Chipeta and the storm drains constructed had put an end to his perennial problems where overflow water from the waterway eroded his fertile top soil from his field destroying crops in the process.
“Soil erosion had become a big problem for me because of flood water from the waterways that would overflow into my field, especially with this year’s heavy rainfall patterns, I would have been in trouble. I really thank God for this programme. These silt traps especially the Chipeta silt trap really saved us. I have a 1 ½ acre farm and this year I have a bumper harvest unlike in past years whereby a large part of crops in my field would be washed away by the flood water,” said Chabuda.
Nyanyadzi Irrigation Management Committee chairman Elliah Nyanhanda thanked Government and development partners for intervening, citing that half of their irrigation acres on arable land had been heavily silted over the years and had become unproductive.
Headman Nyamhanda concurred on the relief the intervention would bring to farmers in the area. He however called on Government to now start damming projects in the province to harness some of the water flowing out into the Indian Ocean in Mozambique, in the event of another drought year.
“For this project we are very grateful as it will really spur development in Nyanyadzi from all year round farming. However, we now need more damming projects in Manicaland to harness our water and use it for irrigation farming, especially in the event another drought comes. On the other hand, now that we have a farming season all year round, we will need help on sustainable markets so that farmers really benefit from their crops. Markets to sell produce at profitable rates for the farmers have always been a problem and we hope you will also look into this as you are working in collaboration on this project,” said Headman Nyanhanda.
Director Mechanisation Rabson Gumbo said catchment management systems were important for soil conversation on arable land. He said they would soon start a countrywide programme to implement catchment management awareness to protect arable land from soil erosion and siltation.
“To resolve the Nyanyadzi irrigation scheme siltation problems needed a holistic approach with focus not only on irrigation but the mechanisation part as well, which is where we step in. We are looking at how best to reduce soil erosion and sedimentation across the whole micro watershed to ensure our top soil is preserved. There is need to integrate good land management practices at the farm level and surrounding areas for better watershed management but this will need policy support to be successful,” said Gumbo.
Gumbo said at community level traditional leadership should be educated on watershed management policies and regulations then be empowered to penalise inappropriate land use such as stream bank cultivation, tree cutting and overgrazing.
Director Climate Change Management Department in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, Washington Zhakata said the Nyanyadzi project would be a pilot project that will prove how public and private partnerships (PPPs) underscored in ZimAsset, can combat climate change problems affecting the country.
“We have a lot of catchment management projects in the country heavily affected by siltation like the Runde, Mzingwane, Save, Odzi sub-catchment ares projects just to mention a few. We have also learnt from this tour that siltation needs to be nipped in the bud from a conservation perspective and not to just de-silt weirs and irrigation canals without addressing the root causes. We hope to learn from this project and implement it in all other water catchment management projects countrywide,” said Zhakata.
Zimbabwe National Water Authority director, Dr Jefter Sakupwanya concurred that the Nyanyadzi project was a classic case of climate change adaptation which they would also adopt to successfully implement their catchment management projects.
“This is a model project and if resources permit should be rolled out countrywide. It is really a classic case of adaptation process to increase water storage, harness infrastructure projects protecting integrity of land from pollution and empowering communities through sustainable capacity building initiatives,” said Dr Sakupwanya.
Chimanimani RDC Agriculture and Environment officer, Timothy Maringe said one third of food security in Chimanimani would be guaranteed after rehabilitating Nyanyadzi Irrigation Scheme to be fully operational.
He encouraged the formation of environment committees at community level to cascade climate change adaptation information to everyone for the sustainability of the programme after development partners leave.
Oxfam UNDP/GEF Scaling up Adaptation in Zimbabwe project manager, Dr Leonard Unganai said the partnership component was key for the project.
“We could have used about US$1.4 million for this project alone if we did not have technical support from Government, not leaving out the manual labour from community volunteers. But we are spending just about about one third of that so the partnership component is key in the success of this project,” said Dr Unganai.
He said their main drive as development partners was to strengthen resilience and reduce the vulnerability of rural communities in the semi-arid regions of the country, particularly women.
“Women are more exposed and vulnerable because they tend to have limited access to productive resources, training and information. They also tend to be generally excluded from political, household and community decision making processes, so we want to tip over this anomaly, which explains why 70 percent of the project beneficiaries will be women.
The SCCA programme which began in November 2014 will run up to October 2018 targeting semi-arid areas in Buhera, Chimanimani and Chiredzi.
Oxfam in September 2014 received a US$3.98 million grant from the GEF Special Climate Change Fund through UNDP on behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe to implement the project in all the target areas.