THOUSANDS of villagers in Matabeleland South face starvation because of poor harvests and collapsing irrigation schemes, farmers warned last week.
BY MOSES MATENGA
Matabeleland South was one of the provinces hardest hit by the prolonged dry spell that resulted in massive crop failure in most parts of the country.
The situation has been worsened by the collapse of irrigation schemes in the province.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has since embarked on a programme to rehabilitate irrigation schemes in the province to ensure food security.
“There is perennial food insecurity because of inadequate rainfall,” said Aaron Museve, a FAO official in Matabeleland South during a tour of the irrigation schemes.
“The natural response is to provide moisture to crops and that is done through irrigation.
“This started with projects funded by the European Union.
“We got applications and there was a criteria used to select those who finally made it.
“There is an aspect of capacitating and orienting the farmers to make them educated into making farming a business,” he added.
The rehabilitation of the irrigation schemes is being financed through a €6 million fund bankrolled by the European Union.
Meanwhile, farmers painted a gloomy picture if no action is taken to rehabilitate their irrigation schemes.
In Beitbridge, at the River Range irrigation scheme, the team vice-chairman Daniel Sibanda said their equipment was swept away by the rains.
He said they were now trying to refurbish the remaining equipment with the help of FAO and government.
Several farmers said their only hope was in the massive rehabilitation exercise by FAO that will see them back in business again and be able to send their children to school.
Some of the areas visited by FAO include Valley Irrigation Scheme, River Range in Beitbridge, Bili and Jakulanga schemes in Beitbridge, and Tuli Lushongwe in Bulawayo.
Most irrigation schemes were under threat because the canals were clogged and pumps had broken down hence making it difficult to supply water to the fields.