ABOUT US$2 billion has been injected to revamp Zimbabwe’s irrigation infrastructure since 2020, a government official told businessdigest this week.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary John Basera said these included investments into new irrigation facilities, which have helped the country lift wheat output by reducing reliance on rainfed agriculture.
Dozens of irrigation schemes that have collapsed since 2000 make up part of a huge infrastructure decay across sectors, estimated by the African Development Bank to require over US$30 billion to rebuild.
This figure is just about the same as the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
But after being shut out of international debt markets, Zimbabwe has been forced to print money to fund investments into roads, dams and other facilities. Consequences of the strategy have been disastrous, with inflation and money supply growth barreling to unsustainable levels in the past year. Basera said Zimbabwe’s goal was to climate proof its agricultural systems, which have been affected by climate change related shocks.
He said partnerships with the private sector had helped government address its irrigation requirements and build fresh capacities for wheat production. In the upcoming 2023 winter wheat season, the ministry targets a 10% rise in area under production, according to Basera.
Agriculture is one of Zimbabwe’s key economic sectors, making up between 15% and 20% of the country’s GDP. Official statistics indicate that over 60% of raw materials running industries come from the country’s agricultural sector.
“The ministry has started planning for the 2023 winter wheat production with a view of increasing production by over 10% from 375 000 metric tonnes (mt),” Basera said.
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“The target is to make Zimbabwe a perennial net exporter of wheat by the year 2025. Total area under crop production is expected to expand from 3,3 million hectares to 3,9 million hectares. Concerted and consistent efforts in irrigation rehabilitation and development are bearing fruit. Area under irrigation increased from 175 000ha in 2020 to 193 000ha in 2022.
“This is critical to climate proof and de-risk the agricultural sector. Since 2020, the government has expended over US$2 billion towards water harvesting and dam construction efforts,” Basera noted.
He said investments into irrigation facilities will spur growth across agricultural subsectors.
Under government’s irrigation revamp strategy, private sector off-takers of agricultural output are required to produce not less than 40% of their annual requirements by supporting farmers.
The strategy saw the private sector contributing about 57 000 hectares of wheat production in the past season, representing a 71% growth.
During the period, private sector players established the Food Crops Contractors Association, which has been credited for underpinning the sector’s growth.
“Private sector participation and contribution cannot be over-emphasised. The ministry is crowding in the private sector in strategic programming, such as irrigation development through the irrigation development alliance, mechanisation development alliance and the national enhanced agriculture production scheme (command agriculture), which is now funded by banks,” Basera said.
“It has been contributing significantly to food production. The government’s approach in programming, whilst engaging with the private sector will provide impetus (for agricultural sector growth),” he said.
Basera said expectations were high this 2023 for over 10% agriculture sector growth.
“The ministry is envisaging sustaining food, feed and oilseed security. Although the expectation bar is now very high, the only option the sector has is to grow, given the programming, commitment and support from the private sector,” he said.
“The ministry is still confident that the planned target of producing over 2,9 million mt tonnes of maize from over 1,9 million hectares is possible given that to-date over 1,5 million hectares have been established, and the ministry is still counting.”