Wed, 14 Feb 2018 10:13:50 +0000
By OLIVER SAMBOKO
ZAMBIA, like many other countries in southern Africa experienced a prolonged a dry spell that may negatively affect its food requirement of 1.8 million tones per annum.
Last harvesting season, the country produced a record of over 3.6 millions metric tonnes of non genetic maize with about 2 million exported to neighboring countries. The harvest drop to around 50 percent in the current 2017/2018 crop season and this will not only affect Zambia, but also the neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe and Congo who depend on maize imports from Zambia.
Last month, the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) said a lot of the maize crop in key production areas had wilted and this was likely to hit the harvest negatively.
There are abundant water resources for irrigation and the country has 40 percent of the water in Central and Southern Africa.
The agricultural sector continues to be the backborne of the Zambian economy as it contributes to the growth of the economy and also to exports. Primary agriculture contributes about 35 percent to the country’s total non traditional exports (all the country’s exports other than copper and cobalt) and about 10 percent of the total export earnings for the country.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Zambia has potential to irrigate over 2.5 million hectares of land but so far only 10% of that is under irrigation, however, the Zambian government has indicated that it intends to open up 6,000 hectares more land for irrigation in addition to 11,000 hectares earmarked in Lusitu, Mwomboshi and Musakashi.
And in an effort to reduce dependence on rains for agriculture, the government has identified potential areas for irrigation schemes.
SITINKWI IRRIGATION SCHEME in Chief Chipepo’s Lisutu area in Chirundu district is one such scheme where mass irrigation will be carried out to cushion the impact of drought on the agriculture sector.
The Sitinkwi project involves clearing of 300 hectares of land, construction of 160 houses for displaced families, erection of wire fence, construction of water reservoirs, power houses and water pumps and water canals.
Once commissioned, the $4.2 million dollar irrigation project which is being undertaken by Savenda-Zambia and expected to support over 120 small scale farmers in Sitinkwi and Ng’ombe ilede areas, will not only improve food security at household level but also will contribute to the national food basket as the benefiting farmers will sale the excess maize to FRA and Millers.
Mr. Patrick Makukisi who is Prime minister of Chipepo chiefdom and who was in forefront in mobilizing the local community for the project said the Sitinkwi irrigation scheme is the first of its kind and will benefit more than 120 households that contributed their land toward the scheme.
“As a chiefdom we are very happy that finally the project is coming to fruition. This will go a long way in not only food security for the people but also it will put more money in the pockets of the beneficiaries as they will be able to sell the surplus and send their children to school,” stated Mr. Makukisi during a recent tour of the 300 hectare project by Government officials from Siavonga District.
He however bemoaned the poor state of the road leading to the project area and hoped that government will consider amending the contract with Savenda-Zambia to include road rehabilitation.
The District Commissioner, Lovemore Kanyama observed that a project of that magnitude needs a good road connectivity to enable the benefiting farmers to transport the produces to the ready market.
The Government officials from Siavonga, led by their District Commissioner Mr. Kanyama toured the project area to learn and appreciate the success and challenges being faced was as Siavonga is also likely to benefit a similar irrigation scheme.
During the tour of the irrigation project site, the Siavonga District Commissioner called on Government to consider replicating the same project in Siavonga. He said Siavonga has enough fertile land and water resource from lake Kariba and the lower Zambezi river which can be utilised to improve the lives of the local community.
“I would like to call on the central government to also consider Siavonga for this kind of project. As you may be aware, the area does not receive enough rains but we have the water resource from both the lake and lower Zambezi river that can support irrigation,”
Meanwhile, Savenda-Zambia project engineer, Abednego Chilikosa explained that the project has reached an advanced stage and soon his company will be handing over the project to government their client.
He said the delay in completing the project which was supposed to be handed over by February is as result of the poor road network to the site.
He further explained that Savenda is also constructing relocation houses for the people who have been moved to pave way for the project.
“The road to the irrigation site is in a very deplorable state which is hampering the speedy completion of the project. We are facing alot of challenges in transporting equipment but however we are doing everything possible to ensure the works do not stall,” said Chilikosa.