THE Department of Irrigation Development has said late disbursement of its budgetary allocations by Treasury has resulted in most irrigable land in the country lying idle.
A 2016 audit report by Auditor-General (AG) Mildred Chiri on the management of irrigation schemes which was tabled in the National Assembly on Tuesday, revealed 56% of irrigable land was lying idle at a time the country was suffering from hunger and relied on donated food.
The report said only 4 273 hectares (44%) out of a total of 9 741 hectares developed for irrigable land were actually under irrigation.
Chiri’s report revealed that irrigation schemes at Mushandike, Marsh, Musikavanhu, Tonhorai and Rupangwana had cracks developing on canals, causing massive leakages and wastage of water. The leakages had resulted in inadequate water flowing into the fields, with some farmers abandoning affected areas.
But, the department said the failure to perform was due to the fact that in 2012 they decided to reduce the number of projects from 69 to 58 in relation to the expenditure target presented to them by Treasury.
“However, only 27% of the budget was released resulting in unpaid certificates amounting to $800 000 that were carried over to 2013. Shortages of resources for both farmers and government resulted in delayed rehabilitation,” said the department in response to Chiri’s report.
The AG’s report revealed that 50% of farmers were unable to irrigate at Musikavanhu irrigation scheme with 12 out of 31 boreholes installed in 1997 not working properly.
The department said it had not been introducing new irrigation projects as it was struggling to complete projects started in 2011 due to failure by Treasury to pay certificates on time.
“The delays in the payment of most certificates beyond the stipulated date were as a result of the national cashflow challenges faced in the country,” the department said.
Construction and rehabilitation material was reportedly delivered late at some irrigation schemes affecting completion of works.
“The department should ensure the required equipment and material are timeously availed in line with the programme of works and plans for servicing of plant and equipment should be done to avoid work disruption,” the AG recommended.
Meanwhile, farmers in Manicaland have been urged to embrace low-cost irrigation projects to cut on electricity costs.
An official in the department of irrigation, Charles Mashavave, told a Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union workshop on Inclusive Policy Dialogue for Social Development in Mutare on Tuesday that farmers were crying foul over high electricity bills.
“Farmers at Nyanyadzi irrigation scheme and other surrounding areas came complaining to me that their electricity bills are at least $7 000 a month and they are struggling to pay,’’ he said.
“So we are urging them to use low-cost irrigation projects. We have the solar-powered irrigation schemes and the gravity-fed systems which are much cheaper.’’