The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in collaboration with partners, has made a financial commitment of over US$100m dollars towards programmes that cater for livelihoods in Zimbabwe, 98.4FM News can report
IFAD is a specialised agency of the United Nations born out of the 1974 World Food Conference and established as an international financial institution in 1977 to finance agricultural development projects, primarily for food production in developing countries.
The UN agency resumed operations in Zimbabwe in 2015 following the country`s committed and managed to service its debt to the multilateral lending institution. IFAD has been running a project targeting communal irrigation scheme dubbed Smallholder Irrigation and Revitilisation Programme (SIRP) in Zimbabwe since 2018.
Under the US$52m project, the funding institution has embarked on the resuscitation of dormant irrigation schemes around the country. In the Midlands Province, IFAD, working together with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development, is reviving schemes in Kwekwe, Gokwe, Chirumanzu, Zvishavane, Gweru and Mberengwa districts.
Speaking during a tour of Mayorca irrigation scheme in Zhombe (Kwekwe District), one of the irrigation schemes revived under SIRP, IFAD Country Director for Eswatini and Zimbabwe Jaana Keitaanranta said the SIRP had a budget of US$52m, with IFAD availing a US$25m loan.
“SIRP is our first project in Zimbabwe after a lengthy period of absence and SIRP has a total budget of $52m and consists of a loan of $25m from IFAD, and co-financing from the OPEC fund (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries International Fund for Development) and rest from national counterparts.”
She said that apart from the SIRP, IFAD was set to roll out two more projects targeting to capacitate small scale, communal farmers, on climate change sensitive agriculture and horticulture.
“We have a new programme also getting started, again under Ministry of Agriculture, and it`s called Smallholder Agriculture Cluster Programme. It`s in the starting process of recruitment so it hasn`t started yet, said Keitaanranta.
She added:” …At the same time, we have also been requested to consider the signing of project number three for the horticulture sector. The project is increasing in size and all the projects have become roughly of the same size like SIRP.”
The Smallholder Cluster Agriculture Programme has a total budget of $67.8m while $38m has been earmarked for the horticulture project, according to IFAD. The cluster programme would be running in five provinces, namely Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Matabeleland North and the Midlands.
Keitaanranta said IFAD had put in place various transparency and accountability mechanisms to ensure “good use of money.” She further said that “grievance mechanisms” had been instituted while the funds are subjected to an auditing process.
IFAD injected about $900 000 in reviving Mayorca irrigation scheme, adding that the costs varied from one scheme to the other, according to the IFAD official.
“This particular scheme is roughly $900 000 but that`s what we saw here, all the schemes are so different even that we have a standard cost per hectare. The needs are different and when we are speaking about the revitalisation, we are not starting from zero and we are building something that we can maintain, for example here (Mayorca) we saw that the walls need to be rebuilt.”
The major developments at the irrigation scheme included the installation of an electricity transformer, rehabilitation of the dam and the installation of a pontoon floating water pump, among other upgrades. The 76-hectare scheme directly serves at least 76 households, as each farmer has a claim to a one-hectare piece of land.
Keitaanranta said she was happy with the operations at the irrigation scheme.
“Everything is really nice to come here to see in person this group that seems to be mature, very motivated and eager. We are really seeing lots of progress and I believe that in the months to come more progress will follow.
The agriculture ministry has set the irrigation revitalisation programme as one of its focus areas as rainfall has become erratic due to climate change. Zimbabwe faces a drought as the current dry spell has caused some crops under dryland farming to wilt.