Govt, OPEC pen $15m irrigation deal

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SMALLHOLDER irrigation farmers have received a lifeline after government and the OPEC Fund for International Development signed a $15 million co-funding agreement to support their operations this Thursday.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and OPEC director general, Suleiman Al-Herbish, signed the contract for the Smallholder Irrigation Revitalisation project (SIRP) in Austria.

“The project will directly benefit at least 15 000 households in existing irrigation schemes and 12 500 households in adjacent rain fed areas covering a total of 8 000 hectares,” said the minister in a statement.

Chinamasa added, “Further employment opportunities for 2 000 youths and 500 extension and technical service providers will be created. The project will support sustainable development in Masvingo, Manicaland, Midlands and Matabeleland South Provinces.

The total project cost is estimated at $51, 68 million.

“The OFID loan facility of $15 million is over and above the $25, 5 million grant has since been availed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD),” he said.

“The government of Zimbabwe and beneficiaries will contribute $7, 9 million and $3, 28 million respectively towards the project. The $15 million loan facility is therefore a top up to meet the project cost of $51, 68 million.”

This comes as Zimbabwe has been experiencing endless droughts which have left the country importing grain. Agricultural experts have been advocating for conservation agriculture and expansion of irrigation infrastructure.

Zimbabwe is one of the countries with the most water bodies in Southern Africa. However, the irrigation infrastructure installed mainly by white farmers was vandalized during the land reform.

Since the land resettlement, government has been providing inputs but the programme has not helped with regular seasons of poor rains.