Zimbabwe taps funding for water-wise farming

2020-08-17 17:08:20
Zimbabwe taps funding for water-wise farming

Small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe have shifted away from irrigating their fields by flooding them, which wastes huge amounts of water.

They are testing more precise drip irrigation that saves water by delivering it to plants efficiently, while monitoring soil moisture and temperature with pressure sensors.

Those practices have enabled farmers in the Tshongokwe Irrigation Scheme in Matabeleland North province to grow vegetables and adapt to more challenging climate conditions.

“We started growing cabbages at a larger scale last May,” said Soneni Dube, chairperson of the scheme’s committee.

“We had lost hope in farming as drought had dried our main source of water which is Tshongokwe Dam,” she added by phone.

With support from local groups and international agencies, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), yields on the scheme’s 24 hectares have improved and most of its 63 member farmers have seen their incomes rise, Dube said.

“We produced meaningful profits from the two hectares of irrigated cabbage,” she said. “We paid school fees for our children (and) bought food, seed and fertilisers for our next crops.”

In March, the international Green Climate Fund (GCF), which helps developing countries adapt to climate shifts and adopt clean energy, approved a $26.6 million grant for a programme to scale up this kind of climate-resilient agriculture in Zimbabwe.

Due to start in September and run through to 2027, the GCF-backed programme aims to fund about 20 climate-smart irrigation schemes in southern Zimbabwe, similar to Tshongokwe, as well as setting up weather stations and 250 field schools for farmers.

It will also equip three of the country’s main agricultural training colleges with upgraded technology to boost research.

It will be co-financed by Zimbabwe’s government with just over $20 million, while UNDP has committed $1.2 million.

The programme plans to benefit 2.3 million people, especially women. The work will focus on three semi-arid provinces of southern Zimbabwe - Manicaland, Masvingo and Matabeleland South – which are particularly vulnerable to global warming.

The region has experienced increasing temperatures since the 1950s, with a decline in annual precipitation and an increase in mid-season dry spells, coupled with droughts and floods.

These changes in climate have reduced water availability and increased soil aridity, the document said, denting crop yields and making it harder for smallholder farmers to earn a living.

Drip irrigation pipes draw water from the storage tanks and cover nearly 10% of the scheme’s fields.

The project is backed by the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund, which aims to help 840,000 people in 18 rural districts overcome poverty and hunger by 2021, with $80 million in funding from the European Union, Sweden, Britain, Denmark and the UNDP.

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