From George Maponga in Masvingo
Preliminary work on the development of a 3000-hectare greenbelt earmarked for the Masvingo East commercial farming heartland by Government has started with assessment of land for the project now complete.
The planned greenbelt will stretch from east of Pokoteke River to the Ripling Waters area in Bikita and will comprise large-scale commercial farms, model A2 farms and communal farms, creating an expansive greenbelt that will be irrigated using Lake Mutirikwi waters.
President Mnangagwa’s administration has been pushing for the creation of this greenbelt as part of the on-going thrust to use idle water bodies to grow food under irrigation in a bid to stem the food import bill which is squeezing government funds.
The envisaged greenbelt has also been incorporated under the greater Lowveld Irrigation Development Master Plan which will be anchored on irrigation development in southern Masvingo using Tugwi-Mukosi Dam waters.
President Mnangagwa has been a firm proponent of the mooted Masvingo east greenbelt as it will further consolidate the province’s position as the nation’s irrigation hub.
Provincial Development Coordinator Dr Jefta Sakupwanya disclosed that work on the planned greenbelt has already started.
Dr Sakupwanya said Government had engaged a consultant to assess the area that will be under irrigation.
“Work to develop the planned greenbelt that will cover 3000 ha in Masvingo East along a belt stretching from Masvingo to Bikita districts has already started but we are still on the pre-feasibility stage,” said Dr Sakupwanya.
“A Government consultant has already finished assessment of the area earmarked for the greenbelt and has given assurance that there is enough land to come up with the 3 000 ha that will constitute the greenbelt.”
He said there will be no relocation of families to pave way for the project saying farmers will draw water for irrigation from canals that will be built to convey water across the greenbelt.
“The assessment also looked at the possibility of pumping water from down in Lake Mutirikwi to higher points from where it will be moved to the fields using gravity.”
Dr Sakupwanya disclosed that the Masvingo provincial leadership was closely working with the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) and the Department of Irrigation to develop the green belt in Masvingo East.
Besides the staple maize crop, the greenbelt will also produce cash crops for the export market boosting both nutrition and disposable income for local irrigation farmers.
Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Ezra Chadzamira has been leading the onslaught to exploit idle water bodies in the province to produce food in line with Vision 2030.
According to Minister Chadzamira, full exploitation of idle water bodies would spur agricultural growth in the province with the net effect of growing the province’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Masvingo is eyeing a GDP of US$8 billion by 2030 buoyed by vast potential in agriculture, mining and tourism.
Minister Chadzamira has however, singled out agriculture as a key game changer for the province owing to big potential for irrigation by virtue of having arguably the highest dam density in the country.