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460 irrigation schemes set for maize – The Herald

Precious Manomano

Herald Reporter

A TOTAL of 460 irrigation schemes have been targeted for maize as efforts to improve agricultural production are escalated to mitigate the effects of climate change.

This season about 90 000 hectares of potential irrigable land have been identified for maize as the Government scales up efforts to boost food production in face of a predicted El Nino season.

Government is targeting to increase the area under irrigation from the current 193 000ha to 350 000ha by 2025 as the country seeks to boost food production.

The intention is to fight the effects of climate change although irrigation farming helps farmers in diversifying their farming operations thereby allowing them to grow crops all year round rather than engaging in seasonal productions.

Speaking during the incentive planning prices for strategic commodities for the 2023/24 season in Harare last week, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said the country is focusing on maximising irrigation so that it produces sufficient food for its people.

‘’We are also looking at identifying farmers with individual irrigation and all the irrigation schemes, the 460 of them, will be obliged to do some irrigated maize. We have identified 90 000ha of potential irrigation for maize this summer. We now have farmers in every ward and we will be assigning them to Agritex officers so that they come on board”.

The weather forecast for October, November and December for the northern parts of the country indicates normal to below normal rainfall. The Southern parts of the country encompassing Matabeleland North into Northern Midlands , and Matabeleland South will have below normal to normal rains.

The second half of the season is predicted to be normal to below normal for the whole country.

With this prediction, the Government has also put in place 17 additional measures to climate proof agriculture.

Dr Masuka said at household level, farmers should promote sustainable intensive conservation dubbed Pfumvudza-Intwasa adding that what is grown in a particular agro ecological zone is determined not by what a farmer wants but by the exigencies of that agro ecological region.

“You can’t grow maize in region 5 in a season predicted to be below normal so we want that agro ecological tailoring to be sharpened. GMB depots in the specific agro ecological regions will only receive crops that are suitable for those regions. We are engaging all the seed houses so that they don’t sell the wrong crops, wrong varieties in the wrong regions and there is much more that we are doing in terms of climate proofing,’’he said.

The roll out of dam construction countrywide will also boost agricultural production, provide potable water and install mini-hydro power projects as the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa seeks to revolutionise agriculture, especially for smallholder farmers.

Farmers said irrigation schemes are critical for small holder farmers to improve agricultural production adding that the Government’s move to introduce the system is greatly appreciated.

They also said irrigation schemes constructed so far have turned the areas into green belts.

One of the beneficiaries of Bubi-Lupane irrigation scheme, Mr Martin Hlongwane, said the scheme has helped to transform subsistence agriculture at household level into commercial agriculture as part of rural development and industrialisation in line with vision 2030.

He said following the revitalisation of the scheme in 2021, they have started reaping the rewards of their labour.

“We were unemployed as a family. We struggled to make ends meet until Government availed this opportunity for us. We are grateful as we can now afford to send our children to school,’’ he said. A Chinhoyi farmer Mr Larry Muenza said his crop which is under irrigation was doing well.

“We thank the Government for availing irrigation facilities. In the summer season we can continue with farming, we see the difference with those farmers without irrigation,” he said.

Mr Taurai Mangisi of Katawa in Raffingora said because of climate change, rainfall patterns were no longer predictable and it was risky to depend on rain-fed agriculture.

“Some of us have been on the land for many years and we cannot be spoon-fed all the time. We ask for loan facilities to get irrigation equipment and pay in instalments,” he said.

Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Trust Mrs Depinah Nkomo said most women farmers did not have irrigation facilities and urged the Government to invest in micro irrigation facilities.

“If every woman can have one hectare under irrigation, we will be able to boost production of earnings from agriculture. We have the land and zeal to farm, but lack of irrigation facilities is affecting us. With irrigation we can grow different types of crops throughout the year and increase profits,” she said.

In a recent interview, the Permanent Secretary for Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development, Dr John Basera, said there is a need to move more towards irrigation development as it is vital for ensuring food security.

“This Agric-Climate Proofing Programme entails massive country-wide water harnessing and irrigation programmes targeting to resuscitate and develop up to 350 000ha under functional irrigation by 2025 from about 150 000 ha in 2020.

“By 2022, the country recorded 193 000 ha under functional irrigation. This thrust will present great opportunities for climate change adaptation in the agriculture production space, thus giving us a chance to go for growth proper and at scale,’’ he said.

The Government created the Irrigation Development Alliance as a vigorous framework that seeks to promote investment in irrigation expansion by supporting partnerships between financial institutions, irrigation companies and farmers.

The programme is part of the Government’s efforts to create an enabling environment for accelerated growth through enhancing irrigation development’s viability and effectiveness to build the country’s resilience to vulnerabilities and shocks that come as a result of climate change.

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New insights into the atmosphere and star of an exoplanet – Science Daily

Astronomers led by a team at Université de Montréal has made important progress in understanding the intriguing TRAPPIST-1 exoplanetary system, which was first discovered in 2016 amid speculation it could someday provide a place for humans to live.

Not only does the new research shed light on the nature of TRAPPIST-1 b, the exoplanet orbiting closest to the system’s star, it has also shown the importance of parent stars when studying exoplanets.

Published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, the findings by astronomers at UdeM’s Trottier Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx) and colleagues in Canada, the U.K. and U.S. shed light on the complex interplay between stellar activity and exoplanet characteristics.

Captured the attention

TRAPPIST-1, a star much smaller and cooler than our sun located approximately 40 light-years away from Earth, has captured the attention of scientists and space enthusiasts alike since the discovery of its seven Earth-sized exoplanets seven years ago. These worlds, tightly packed around their star with three of them within its habitable zone, have fueled hopes of finding potentially habitable environments beyond our solar system.

Led by iREx doctoral student Olivia Lim, the researchers employed the powerful James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to observe TRAPPIST-1 b. Their observations were collected as part of the largest Canadian-led General Observers (GO) program during the JWST’s first year of operations. (This program also included observations of three other planets in the system, TRAPPIST-1 c, g and h.) TRAPPIST-1 b was observed during two transits — the moment when the planet passes in front of its star — using the Canadian-made NIRISS instrument aboard the JWST.

“These are the very first spectroscopic observations of any TRAPPIST-1 planet obtained by the JWST, and we’ve been waiting for them for years” said Lim, the GO program’s principal Investigator.


She and her colleagues used the technique of transmission spectroscopy to peer deeper into the distant world. By analysing the central star’s light after it has passed through the exoplanet’s atmosphere during a transit, astronomers can see the unique fingerprint left behind by the molecules and atoms found within that atmosphere.

‘Just a small subset’

“This is just a small subset of many more observations of this unique planetary system yet to come and to be analysed,” adds René Doyon, Principal Investigator of the NIRISS instrument and co-author on the study. “These first observations highlight the power of NIRISS and the JWST in general to probe the thin atmospheres around rocky planets.”

The astronomers’ key finding was just how significant stellar activity and contamination are when trying to determine the nature of an exoplanet. Stellar contamination refers to the influence of the star’s own features, such as dark spots and bright faculae, on the measurements of the exoplanet’s atmosphere.

The team found compelling evidence that stellar contamination plays a crucial role in shaping the transmission spectra of TRAPPIST-1 b and, likely, the other planets in the system. The central star’s activity can create “ghost signals” that may fool the observer into thinking they have detected a particular molecule in the exoplanet’s atmosphere.

This result underscores the importance of considering stellar contamination when planning future observations of all exoplanetary systems, the sceintists say. This is especially true for systems like TRAPPIST-1, since the system is centred around a red dwarf star which can be particularly active with starspots and frequent flare events.


“In addition to the contamination from stellar spots and faculae, we saw a stellar flare, an unpredictable event during which the star looks brighter for several minutes or hours,” said Lim. “This flare affected our measurement of the amount of light blocked by the planet. Such signatures of stellar activity are difficult to model but we need to account for them to ensure that we interpret the data correctly.”

A range of models explored

Based on their collected JWST observations, Lim and her team explored a range of atmospheric models for TRAPPIST-1 b, examining various possible compositions and scenarios.

They found they could confidently rule out the existence of cloud-free, hydrogen-rich atmospheres — in other words, there appears to be no clear, extended atmosphere around TRAPPIST-1 b. However, the data could not confidently exclude thinner atmospheres, such as those composed of pure water, carbon dioxide, or methane, nor an atmosphere similar to that of Titan, a moon of Saturn and the only moon in the Solar System with its own atmosphere.

These results are generally consistent with previous (photometric, and not spectroscopic) JWST observations of TRAPPIST-1 b with the MIRI instrument. The new study also proves that Canada’s NIRISS instrument is a highly performing, sensitive tool able to probe for atmospheres on Earth-sized exoplanets at impressive levels.

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