In recent years, rain-fed agriculture has become unreliable for most African countries whose economies ironically depend on agricultural productivity, and despite massive potential in irrigation farming; Zimbabwe sadly finds itself among countries which have struggled to meet their food requirements.
The fact that low rainfall has been a major characteristic of the current farming season is self-evident and it has become imperative to embrace irrigation farming as a way of guaranteeing food security.
Uptake of irrigation water in Zimbabwe has of late been very low with farmers, particularly those resettled under the A1 and A2 models, arguing that the prices of raw water are too high, among other excuses such as erratic power supplies and lack of irrigation equipment.
It goes without saying that the bulk of the country’s food has traditionally been produced by A1, A2 and communal famers and therefore, it is vital to listen to their concerns.
This being an agro based economy; the low uptake of irrigation water is unsustainable and there is need for farmers and stakeholders in the water sectors to find common ground.
It is against such a background that Government recent move to approve a reduction in raw water tariffs for A1, A2 and Communal farmers should be applauded, and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), being an important player in the water sector, is encouraging farmers to take full advantage of the low tariffs and sign water abstraction agreements.
As is shown on the table below, raw water tariffs for A1, A2 and communal farmers have been reduced by 40, 27 and 56 percent respectively and this should encourage more farmers to venture into irrigation farming thus unlocking agricultural productivity in line with the Government’s economic blueprint- the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET).
A2 Farmers 5.00
A1 Farmers 3.00
Communal Farmer 2.0
The new tariffs are in line with 10 point economic revitalisation plan enunciated by President Mugabe not so long ago. That agriculture revitalisation is the first of the ten points speaks volumes of its strategic importance to economic development.
ZINWA fully understands that, as an alternative to rain-fed agriculture, irrigation farming has enormous potential to facilitate long-term agricultural and socio-economic development of the country.
Now that raw water tariffs have been reduced which means even small-scale farmers can access irrigation water more affordably, the onus is on the farmers to demonstrate their commitment to use water legally by signing agreements with ZINWA. This will safeguard their operations especially in these times of low dam levels.
The reduction of raw water tariffs should lead to more water uptake and usage, particularly for irrigation facilities. It is a golden opportunity for irrigating farmers to contribute to national economic development by increasing agricultural productivity and guaranteeing food security.
The extent of raw water underutilisation, especially by irrigating farmers, is disheartening and ZINWA hopes that farmers will interpret the reduction of raw water tariffs as an opportunity to unlock agricultural productivity and boost the economy.
Evidently, for as long as long as raw water uptake for agricultural production is low, it will always be difficult to ensure food security in these times of unpredictable weather.
Despite the reduction in water tariffs, ZINWA also continues to emphasise on the need for water efficiency so that the limited available water can be used more productively.
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