Nyakomba Irrigation Scheme, which has enabled the production of high value cash crops, including red chillies that are being exported to the United States of America, has significantly improved the livelihoods of the people of Nyanga.
President Mnangagwa commissioned the irrigation scheme on Wednesday following its resuscitation through funds from Japan.
The revival of the irrigation scheme comes a decade after it had been damaged by Cyclone Eline floods in 2000.
The resuscitation was funded through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between Government and the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA).
The scheme seeks to enhance sustainable agriculture in Nyanga as the district has been heavily reliant on rain-fed agriculture.
The Nyakomba irrigation project was rolled out in 2015 and completed last year.
Said President Mnangagwa: “When we toured the project, we saw men and women working on their pieces of land. The project is targeting export markets, so I had to see where they produce and process the red chilli. They export it to America, where they are paid in US dollars.”
Japan’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Toshiyuki Iwado, said the project will not only support the farmers and their families, but also contribute to the growth of the country’s agricultural sector in line with Vision 2030.
Zimbabwe is working towards attaining an upper-middle income economy in the next decade.
“However, simply providing farmers this infrastructure is not sufficient to transform the agricultural sector. The farmers also need to understand the market forces so that they can derive maximum benefit from the sales of their produce and invest in their future.
“They need to be empowered to become entrepreneurs. By having the necessary business acumen, they will be able to tap into the markets, at the national, regional and international level,” said Ambassador Iwado.
The Ambassador revealed that JICA launched the Zimbabwe Smallholder Horticultural Empowerment and Promotion (Zim-SHEP) — a five-year technical cooperation project, to capacitate smallholder farmers. “Its goal is to transform farmers’ way of thinking. They need to be more market-oriented so that they can even negotiate directly with the retailers, thereby allowing them to benefit at the maximum level,” said Mr Iwado.
At the irrigation scheme, 55 hectares are under the red chilli.
Each chilli plant produces a kilogramme at the very least, which is then processed into paste and exported at US$0,55 per kilogramme.
However, the farmers are calling for Government to intervene in breaking the monopoly which has seen one company enjoying more profits from the exports, thereby prejudicing the farmers.
After buying the chilli from the farmers at US$0,55 per kg, the company exports the product at US$4 per kg.
Agritex Manicaland’s head, Mrs Phillipa Rwambiwa, said: “The red chilli farmers are doing well, although the US$0,55/kg charge may not be the best price considering the export price. We are researching on the price matrix to negotiate a better deal for the farmers.”
Ms Juliet Manyau (65), a farmer at the scheme said Government should allow other players to come on board so as to break this monopoly.
“Allowing more players will give us some bargaining power,” she said, adding that despite that hiccup, red chilli is still rewarding them handsomely.
“We are producing for export and this is a lucrative venture. As a widow, I have been able to fend for my family and send them to school. I have also constructed a comfortable home for my children.” said Ms Manyau.
Mrs Hilda Nyamupinga (65) said the farmers at the scheme are now venturing into baby-corn production.
Agritex’s Mrs Rwambiwa said they are helping farmers to access subsidised inputs and practice modern agronomic practices.
Five extension officers have been deployed at the scheme for that purpose.
“We are equipping them with knowledge on the right fertilisers and water quantities.
Dr Conrade Zawe, a director in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, said the scheme’s produce needs to be marketed to attract more buyers.
Farmers at the scheme are also producing maize, beans, cotton and sunflower.