Farmers On Irrigation Schemes Bemoan High Water Tariffs

By Mark Mhukayesango

GWERU, December 14, 2015-Farmers IN the Midlands have cried foul over Zimbabwe National Water
Authority (ZINWA) high water tariffs which have made irrigation in
farms surrounding the province more expensive than in previous years.
ZINWA charges $7.82 per mega litre and coupled with high electricity
tariffs , utility costs have rocked the irrigation schemes which is
currently operating at below 50 percent.
Irrigation schemes here are operation below capacity due to
prohibitive utility costs ,an irrigation expert says.
With weather patterns pointing to another drought this years, A1,A2
farmers are pinning their hopes on irrigation to boost production, but
the costs have become unbearable.
Gift Mabehla,of Somabhula told Radio VOP that he uses 100 mega litres
per month and at the rate of $7,82 per mega litre an unsustainable
situation , considering the economic climate.
“Forking out such a huge amount of money is unsustainable because we
also use electricity which is also very expensive per unit. Costs of
agricultural production are very high and we most farmers cannot
afford,” Mabehla said.
Mabehla said the Ministry of Agriculture should incentivise farming by
ordering Zinwa to reduce the water tariffs.
“Our agriculture production has dipped over the years and it is not
good for our economy. To incentivise farming ,Zinwa should make water
affordable for the farmer  because our rainy seasons have become
snorter and unpredictable,” he said.
ZINWA contends they provide water as per request made by irrigation
schemes at the beginning of the agricultural year in April and farmers
are expected to pay the full cost.
Most farmers in Zimbabwe rely on rain fed agriculture which has
disappointed over the years ,with the resurgence of droughts.
With 2015/16 rainy season having started on December 14 ,according to
the Meteriological department, however the season is predicted to be
shorter ,hence the need to focus on irrigation.
“Our only hope for this season has been dented by the water tariffs.
We are therefore asking that Zinwa considers the plight of farmers
because irrigation is the only way we can water our crops in this
drought,” said Arnold Mavankeni, a lower Gweru farmer.
“This province had pinned hopes on irrigation projects as weather
forecasts point to another drought , but the prohibitive costs spell
hunger for our province-something should be done,” said Mavankeni.
Irrigation expert Norman Mupaso said : “Government should intervene
and find a win- win solution that will enable farmers to irrigate
their farming lands at a minimal cost.”
He however urged farmers to use the water bodies in the areas
surrounding their farms to reduce over reliance on Zinwa and as a cost
cutting measure.
“Farmers as business people should also learn to cut costs and make
use of the water bodies  at their farms . This will augment the water
supply which is low and boost production,” said Mupaso.
Zimbabwe this year alone required 1,7 million metric tonnes to avert
hunger and starvation after farmers failed to get a meaningful
harvest.