By Johannes Chin’ombe
ZAKA, November 16, 2015– In an unusual development, Zaka farmers along Siya Dam and Murezi River have resorted to illegal irrigation in a bid to curb the anticipated continuous dry spell to affect the 2015 – 2016 farming season, Radio VOP can reveal.
The farmers who are currently under fire from Zaka Rural District Council (RDC) officials justified their actions saying they have no other alternative except working their way out through legal or illegal ways to alleviate the recurring hunger since government failed to fulfil its promise to bail them out from last season’s drought.
“Last season we suffered a severe drought and government promised to rescue us but to no avail. Right next to us is Siya Dam where we can benefit by irrigating our fields and they want to stop us so that we suffer from the approaching drought again. We will do all we can so that we survive from our own labour. If they want to carry out any arrests we challenge them to start with threatening robbers and rapists going free across the nation than fighting people who are struggling to make ends meet,” said one famer, Rosemary Bere.
“We have for long appealed to our council to allocate us land in areas where we can practise irrigation farming legally. Council has failed to do so for a long time as they continuously say they want to audit and know the number of farmers that are legally entitled to farming land and that has taken too long. It is due to that delay that saw us irrigating our fields in our own ways as we can’t afford suffering another year of hunger in 2016,” disclosed another farmer, Anna Jera.
“What makes us practise shortcuts is the fact that there is unfair distribution of water on this irrigation. You would discover that in most times, Block B is entitled to more water that Block A and Block C. This is very disappointing for us as farmers who pay for the same services to suffer in that way. We have since realised that if we interject and poach the water on its way to the fields, we are guaranteed availability of the precious liquid than wait for the responsible authorities to provide us with the water, our approach is efficient,” added a daring farmer, Itai Chikonzi.
“The charges being levied by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) for us to pay for irrigation are extremely high. Most of us have been cut off because we can’t afford the exorbitant charges especially in these hard times. Until government regulates reasonable payments so that we can pay for the irrigation of our fields, I don’t think anyone here is willing to abandon the practise of getting water using available means to water their fields. As farmers we even wonder why they charge so much on water they get for free,” argued another famer, Edward Vurayi
Zimbabwe Farmers Union Provincial Coordinator, Jeremiah Chimwanda however condemned the illegal farming practices and said all those farmers should be brought to book.
“This practice of stealing water from pipes that water major irrigations is now prevalent in the province as a whole though it is illegal. Some have even went on to irrigate their fields from undesignated water sources which is a major challenge to local authorities,” said Chimwanda.
“Even if you travel as far as Mkwasine, across to Bhani, these activities are notable, but as ZFU we condemn such practices because they are unfair to farmers who would be paying to have their fields watered. Why can’t they simply do the same and pay that water is supplied to their fields legally. All those people should be brought to book and be punished accordingly,” Chimwanda said.
The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development, Davis Marapira further rubbished the activities and said the ministry will definitely work hand in glove with all local authorities to curb the on-going illegal activities.
“What these farmers are doing is bad. This will see us as a ministry working harmoniously with service providers to put an end to this. Fish poaching has also been reportedly on a rise in that area. What we are trying to do as government when we upgrade and have all irrigations fully functional is to ensure that the province is well fed whether there is a drought or not,” clarified Marapira.
“Now when they disturb the programmes that are meant to benefit them how is the rest of the populace going to benefit. These people are self centred,” Marapira said.
Meanwhile, there has been an uproar from the people of Masvingo that there is an urgent need to complete the construction of the Tokwe – Mkosi Dam to benefit the province on agricultural programmes especially the expansion of irrigation schemes as the dam holds of 1,8 million cubic metres of water at full capacity and with an estimated potential to irrigate all year round in excess of 25 000 hectares.