The company, which is also mining diamonds in Chiadzwa in Marange district, has told villagers that they might cease farming operations once they harvest the crops if presence of the gems is confirmed.
Villagers who spoke to The Standard last week said if the company was to start mining in the area, hundreds of families would lose their source of livelihood as they rely on the irrigation scheme for survival.
“They (Chinese) came here and did some excavations where they took some stone and soil samples,” said one villager.
“They said if the results confirm availability of gems we would have to stop farming as mining operations would have to commence but this will affect a lot of families that solely survive on this irrigation scheme for food.”
The scheme, which is in geologically dry region five, irrigates 440 ha of land cultivated by some 500 plot holders.
Councillor for Ward 8 in Nyanyadzi, Charles Dirikwe confirmed that a Chinese company had visited the area and took some samples.
He said he had a meeting with officials from the company and the district administrator, where assurance was given that the small-scale farmers would not lose their plots and houses without compensation if the mining venture was approved.
“They said they would discuss further after seeing the results of the samples they took,” said Dirikwe.
“If they are to do that (mining), they would have condemned us to death because for decades we have been surviving on this irrigation scheme.”
Dirikwe said the Chinese company officials were being assisted by one Colonel Dube, who was acting as the interpreter. Efforts to get a comment from Dube were fruitless.
Acting Chimanimani district administrator Simon Sigauke refused to comment referring questions to Manicaland provincial governor, Christopher Mushowe, who could not be reached for comment.
Nyanyadzi smallholder irrigation scheme is situated in the Muusha communal lands, 100km south of the city of Mutare.
It receives water, by gravity, from both the Nyanyadzi River and Osborne Dam, several kilometres upstream on the Odzi River.
Councillor for Ward 20 Zekias Nhachi also said officials from the same Chinese company had also attempted to take samples from Gudyanga area, 10km from Nyanyadzi, but were blocked by the local leadership since they had not sought permission.
“They were about to start excavation where we bury our traditional leaders and this is the same area where we perform traditional rites such as rain-making ceremonies,” said Nhachi.
The threat of evacuation of plot holders comes after several hundreds of families were displaced from Chiadzwa to make way for diamond mining operations. The families have since relocated at ARDA Transau Estate, about 24km from Mutare.