It is an early August morning, the weather is generally pleasant and you can feel the light breeze of mild easterly winds. You can count on Chiredzi to be sunny and warm almost throughout the year. We are on a monitoring visit to Rupangwana Irrigation Scheme one of the schemes under rehabilitation. Rupangwana Irrigation Schemes is located in Chiredzi ward 4, Natural Region 5 and receives average annual rainfall of 400mm and experiences frequent droughts. The livelihoods are mostly sustained on crop and livestock enterprise, cross border activity, informal trading and remittances.
As we transact the scheme there is a marked improvement in the cropping compared to what we saw last November (2020). The standing crops are in good condition. We ask Mr Manganda (vice chair of the IMC) as he works on his sugar bean crop what has contributed to this great change
“The rehabilitation of the scheme has energised farmers. “We have benefited greatly from the trainings that we received from SIRP. The farmers, committee and extension staff are now working together in harmony”.
Mrs Esther Chitiki the scheme chairperson also testifies the same “I am now using the recommendations from the training. I am growing my beans, cabbage and wheat at the recommended time, spacing and varieties. We can now grow 3 times a year if we gather our inputs in time. She remarks as she closes the southern entrance gate leading us to the rehabilitated pump house at Save river. The economists in us cannot resist extracting some numbers from Mai Chitiki and other farmers. They tell us that from a 0.2ha plot a farmer gets around 10 bags of sugar beans per season and sells them for USD400. “I can now pay for household needs including school fees, food and clothes. With the improved availability of water, I’m sure I will have cash throughout the year” the vice chair adds.
It’s good to note that farmers at Rupangwana have started adopting the block system approach. Farmers have benefited from bulk inputs purchasing of inputs, scheduling activities and luring buyers. For the current beans farmers have entered into agreements with PHI holdings. Mrs Francis one of the farmers with a standing sugar bean crop says “PHI has agreed that they will buy most of the sugar beans once we harvest, we won’t be selling one 20 litre bucket at a time. The problem with the old way of marketing is that it is difficult to plan. We welcome bulk buyers as long as their prices are fair”.
Mr Matewe the Agricultural Extension Officer (AEO) reckons it’s the start of bigger things to come “with improved access to markets and cooperation of farmers the future is bright”. The local District Agricultural Extension Officer Mr Bodi was also impressed by the work around the canal embankments. “I am seeing a great improvement. Farmers are now weeding and maintaining the canals, previously grasses and small bushes were invading the canals. Although there are a few who are not heeding to best practices but we hope they will learn from others. Farmers tend to learn by doing and from one another”. As we continue to engage in informal discussion with farmers, we get the sense that farmers know the consequences of not looking after the infrastructure and know what needs to be done. The recent drive to retool extension services through provision of the AEO with motor cycles, fuel and ICT gadgets will no doubt contribute to improved production.
As we wind up our tour, the story would not be complete without mentioning the on-going expansion of the irrigation scheme by 38Ha. Expansion is progressing well and almost complete. Under the expansion a further 50 farmers will benefit. It’s now 1450hrs as we say our good byes to the farmers who have been our good hosts since morning you can feel the optimism and genuine sense of excitement amongst the farmers and extension workers. On the whole it has been an insightful day, a day well spent indeed. We choose optimism and as one famous quote says ,―Don’t try to rush progress. Remember, a step forward, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. Keep believing. ‖ Kara Goucher – American long-distance runner Study Beneficiary Irrigator