Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu Bulawayo Bureau
ABOUT 180 families from Gwanda District in Matabeleland South are poised to reap big business spoils following the upgrading of the Tuli Makwe Irrigation Scheme into a vibrant commercial unit in line with the Government’s Vision 2030 Accelerator Model.
Previously, the irrigation scheme operated as a subsistence farming venture and farmers struggled to sustain the project and could not make a positive breakthrough due to a number of challenges.
Under the new model, the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) will manage the Tuli Makwe Business Unit on behalf of the villagers to ensure increased production and marketing of produce, which buttresses the rural industrialisation and development drive.
This means that all the shareholders under the business unit will be paid a monthly wage and at the end of the crop cycle they will be able to draw a dividend.
Already, 78 hectares of land at the scheme has been put under winter wheat and farmers expect to harvest about 4,5 tonnes per hectare. Early projections suggest that members are set to receive a combined dividend amounting to about US$1 000 after sales.
Another 34 hectares has been put under maize, 10 hectares under horticulture production and 120 hectares is earmarked for maize production during the forthcoming summer cropping season.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka, officially commissioned the upgraded business venture on Friday. He said the irrigation scheme now has to operate as a business that will significantly contribute towards the attainment of Vision 2030.
The minister handed over a certificate of new status to the Tuli Makwe Business Unit chairperson, Mr Louise Ncube, to mark its transformation and revealed that it will receive maize seed and fertiliser under the Presidential Input Scheme.
Tuli Makwe is now part of the 329 of the 460 irrigation schemes that are now under the Vision 2030 Accelerator Model and the Government expects the remainder to be transferred onto the new model by the end of the year.
“All those that have been transferred to this new model have a professional manager stationed at the scheme. All these irrigation schemes have been capacitated to have an irrigated crop under the summer cropping.
“All the 460 irrigation schemes on 26 000 hectares are set to be transformed into business entities.
“The water and land which you have here is your valuable asset. Vision 2030 lies beneath our feet. People from this area shouldn’t go to Bulawayo or South Africa to look for jobs but this is where you can get your income,” said Dr Masuka in his commissioning address.
“We want this scheme to be turned into a business. This is the last time you are calling yourselves farmers as you are now business people.”
Dr Masuku also handed 10 000 chicks to farmers and 20 motorbikes to extension officers to capacitate the teams to ensure the success of the Rural Development Strategy 8.0, which is key to attainment of Vision 2030.
The Government launched the Rural Development 8.0 model aimed at eradicating poverty in all its forms, including food and water poverty through an agricultural development-rural industrialisation-rural development- Vision 2030 nexus.
Dr Masuka said Matabeleland South has 16 irrigation schemes and 13 have been resuscitated as part of efforts by the Government to develop the agricultural sector.
“This new model of running irrigation schemes as a business is the Rural Development Strategy 8.0 launched by the President to transform communities from being economic spectators to economic participants,” said the minister.
In her remarks, Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Dr Evelyn Ndlovu, said the Second Republic has recorded significant development in irrigation schemes, which will go a long way in ensuring food and nutrition security.
She said the province cherishes and is in full support of President Mnangagwa’s vision.
ARDA chief executive officer, Mr Tinotenda Mhiko, said the rural transformation strategy being rolled out at irrigation schemes across the country seeks to see farmers move from subsistence to commercial farming.
“The V30 Accelerator Model in Mat South catalyses rural industrialisation, which in turn catalyses rural development with accelerated attainment of Vision 2030,” he said.
“The model guarantees the viability and profitability and sustainability of the agricultural operations happening here.
“Farmers are guaranteed an income through monthly wages and dividends after they harvest and market the produce. The farmers are managed and hand held by a resident ARDA scheme business manager hence they are well aligned to Government’s vision.”
For the past five years, the vast tract of arable land at Tuli Makwe Irrigation Scheme was lying idle despite its huge potential to improve the locals’ livelihoods.
President Mnangagwa launched the Arda Vision 2030 Accelerator Model Programme at Bubi-Lupane Irrigation Scheme in September 2021.
The model is now being replicated in 460 irrigation schemes across the country and seeks to stimulate rural industrialisation through agricultural development in line with Vision 2030, which is anchored on driving the country’s economy into an upper-middle-income.
The Government has also developed the National Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Programme anchored by the Agricultural and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, which seeks to strengthen resilience and agricultural livelihoods of vulnerable communities.