In an effort to encourage farmers in SIRP to diversify to other agricultural products, SIRP has introduced aquaculture to various schemes in Masvingo. Four irrigation schemes, that include Banga, Fungai and Musaverema received various quantities of fingerlings early this year.
According to Peter Bheka the chairperson for Fungai Irrigation Scheme, the scheme received the fingerlings, (Nile Tilapia Variety) on the 7th of February 2023. The scheme had four fishponds with a total of 2 200 fingerlings which were being fed using feed formulation as per guidelines given by the Department of Fisheries which was engaged by the Smallholder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme (SIRP) to assist the farmers. All the 87 farmers in the scheme were trained in fisheries and were also receiving support and assistance from the local extension officer and the ARDA scheme manager.
Before SIRP, the group had established four ponds in 2016 and managed to use two of them, each accommodating 700 fish as the water available at the time could not sustain the four ponds and at the same time irrigate the scheme. They managed to harvest the initial 1 400 fish but the solar panels which powered the water reticulation system were stolen in 2019, resulting in persistent shortage of water until the farmers removed all the fish.
The SIRP intervention addressed the problems through attending to the challenges of water pumps and availability and the farmers were able to access enough water for the ponds. The scheme was now using electricity to pump water to the night storage dam. The farmers also participated in rehabilitating ponds in partnership with the Department of Mechanisation and Soil Conservation and SIRP.
The move breed and sell fish was expected to result in improved diets as the fish would provide much needed proteins. Through the fish project, farmers were also expected to be more resilient as they would have another source of food and income in case of unexpected disasters that affected crops.
Farmers expected to sustain the project through buying more fingerlings and fish feed. In July 2023, the farmers would hold a field day at the scheme where they would invite aquaculture experts and other stakeholders for a learning event. Experts were expected to evaluate the project and give their opinion on areas for improvement. Fish sales were expected to commence on that day with potential buyers such as the local primary schools, boarding schools, large retailers such as Pick ‘n Pay who were expected to partner with farmers for contract farming in future.