Farmers at the recently commissioned Biri Irrigation Scheme in Mberengwa say the rehabilitation of their scheme and trainings that they received from the Smallholder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme (SIRP) have transformed the scheme and its farmers.
Speaking on the sidelines of the commissioning, the scheme irrigation chairperson, Mr Tinomuonga Hove said, “Before the SIRP intervention we did not have adequate water for our activities within the scheme. Our engines had poor efficiency while our farmers also did not understand what the block system of irrigation was all about. Each farmer would cultivate what he or she felt like. As a result, our yields were low as we did not have any knowledge on good agricultural practices and post-harvest management.”
He added, “We often lost most of our crop during harvest. However, we are grateful for the transformation brought by SIRP which replaced our engines with new ones, as well as rehabilitating our pipeline which conveys water from the dam to the field which was threatened by the flow of water within the river. SIRP protected the pipeline by building a gabion to protect it. They also rehabilitated the canals which were small and resulted in water loss, preventing us as farmers from irrigating our fields on time. SIRP improved the canals and made them bigger, which increased their capacity. SIRP also provided siphons for use within the scheme.”
According to Mr Hove, training done by SIRP also helped the farmers to run the scheme as a sustainable business enterprise.He said, “Most importantly, SIRP provided training which transformed the way we conducted our agriculture within the scheme. We wish to continue to receive more training which we know will improve the manner in which we carry out activities within the scheme.”
The impact of the training is already apparent. Mr Hove said, “As farmers, we managed to open a foreign currency account after being trained on Farming as Business. SIRP also introduced the concept of a commitment fee where farmers pay US$100 per hectare per year. This was meant to repair or replace and broken components within the field. In May 2022, we encountered a challenge soon after the rehabilitation of the scheme, when our transformer and cables were stolen. We used the funds from the commitment fee to pay the US5 000 to replace the stolen components. SIRP has left us in a better position such that we can move forward as a scheme. We now know that farming should be run as a business. We operate as a company where each farmer has shares. After the sale of our crop, we share proceeds according to each farmer’s shares in the scheme. We then settle our bills to ZESA and ZINWA. Its unlike before SIRP where we used to report utility providers to government when they disconnected services due to non-payment. After the SIRP training we now know that it is our responsibility to pay these service providers.”
Mr Zhou added, “We currently have 66 hectares under wheat which was supported by the Presidential Inputs Programme. We are anticipating to harvest 396 tonnes of wheat. Before SIRP we were not able to harvest that much. We could only manage around 200 tonnes for the 66 hectares. This is a great transformation”.
The farmers recently joined a cooperative which will enable them to run the scheme as a business, where they have a vision and have already opened an account. The farmers have already opened an account where they are saving money to install a solar system. The decision was made after the farmers noted the challenge of electricity within the scheme. This will be a substitute for electricity, just in case the scheme experiences power outages.