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Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Matabeleland South Bureau Chief 

FARMERS from Hikwa Village in Bulilima District are reaping the benefits of hard work at a two-hectare solar-powered irrigation scheme that was rehabilitated last year.

The scheme has 40 members and has become a reliable source of livelihood to the community.

Last year in April the farmers planted cabbage, onions and tomatoes got about R30 000 after selling the produce. This year, they have maize, beetroot, carrots, chomolia, okra and butternut in their garden which they will be harvesting soon. They just harvested tomatoes which they are selling.

The farmers anticipate more proceeds from this season’s harvest. The project started in 2020 as a small garden which had seven members. The members were struggling to sustain their garden as they did not have a reliable water source. They had to collect water from a dam in buckets to water their crops. In 2021 Government in partnership with Practical Action under the Planting for Progress Project assisted the community with a reliable source of water.

A solar-powered borehole was installed and the garden was upgraded to a two hectare irrigation area to benefit more households. It uses a drip system.

The project chairperson, Mr Mphathisi Ndebele, said the garden has brought huge relief to villagers as they now had a reliable source of income.

“The garden has brought huge relief to us a community as we didn’t have a garden of this magnitude. Our project started off as a small garden in 2020 with seven members. Our production was at a low capacity and the harvest we produced was mainly for household consumption.

“We would like to thank Government and Practical Action for this intervention which has seen up producing at a larger scale. Our garden is now two hectares and we have a reliable source of water. This garden is now a source of livelihood for us. Some of our members have managed to start small businesses using the proceeds we have received from the garden,” he said.

Mr Ndebele said some members have formed savings and lending groups.

He said Practical Action assisted with equipment, which includes solar panels, jojo tanks, water pipes and engines while the community provided labour. Mr Ndebele said Government through Agritex provided training on how to practice farming as a business. He said members were also equipped with skills on how to maximise their production and identify markets.

Ms Thenji Moyo who is the project’s secretary said last year they planted late as they were still preparing their land, which affected production. She said this time they were targeting an increased harvest as they had planted on time.  Ms Moyo said they sell produce to Dombodema High School, the local community and Plumtree Town. She said some vendors buy produce from them in bulk.

“We have a committee responsible for marketing and they created linkages. We supply Dombodema High School. Community members know that they can get fresh and affordable garden produce from us. We also take some of our produce to Plumtree Town and sell it there, especially to vendors,” she said.

“Our target is to increase our market and to produce a wide variety of cash crops as it will increase our income. Most important of all, we are now guaranteed that our children will never go hungry as we have this project. The money we earn is helping us to send our children to school.”

Bulilima Ward 20 councillor Benjamin Nleya said the work which was being done by Manake Irrigation farmers was impressive as they were helping to feed the community. He said they were also highly productive. Cllr Nleya said the irrigation project will go a long way in eradicating poverty in the community. @DubeMatutu

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