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Irrigation Scheme Helps Harvest In Zimbabwe's Matabeleland

Matabeleland in Zimbabwe is not known for its bumper harvests but this year, for the first time in many years, 100 smallholder farmers from Insiza have managed to harvest enough maize for themselves and to sell some despite a largely poor agricultural season.

Kesi Nyoni stands in her paprika plot which she got from WFP's cash for assets programme in 2011. Copyright: WFP/Tomson Phiri

Matabeleland in Zimbabwe is not known for its bumper harvests but this year, for the first time in many years, 100 smallholder farmers from Insiza have managed to harvest enough maize for themselves and to sell some despite a largely poor agricultural season.

Most rivers have already dried up, due to poor rains. Half the land is charred from veld fires. There is nothing in the fields and nothing in the granaries either. But the Malole Irrigation Scheme, set up by the Ministry of Agriculture in the nineties to build community resilience to climate shocks, is bearing fruit.

Kesi Nyoni, 42, has harvested ten 50kg bags of maize from the small plot she tends as part of the irrigation scheme.

“God has smiled on me this year”, she says. She is also looking forward to harvesting paprika, which she takes to market in Bulawayo, 200 kilometres away. Each cartload of paprika gives her US$300 and she expects to get six of them.

“Not bad for a widowed mother of four”, she adds.

Cash-for-assets

Following the death of her husband from an HIV-related illness five years ago, Kesi had to leave the family homestead, with no means to survive. As the Government was unable to expand the scheme, she had to endure four long years on a waiting list before joining the programme.

In 2011, WFP and World Vision, through a cash-for-assets programme, provided cash and material to accommodate an additional 100 plot holders. Kesi was one of them.

“Support from WFP enabled us to assist more farmers”, says Mxolisi Matshazi, District Extension Officer for Insiza. “We hope WFP will continue to support us”.

Hunger solutions

In 2011, WFP worked in nine rural districts of Zimbabwe helping communities create productive assets such as dip tanks and weirs to improve their food security. The programme is undertaken  in collaboration with the Government of Zimbabwe’s Agriculture Ministry, and through cooperating partners including IOM, World Vision, CARE, German Agro Action and Plan International.

Felix Bamezon, WFP Country Director, said the programme forms part of WFP’s new strategic direction.

“WFP operations now focus on building resilience and activities which offer more sustainable hunger solutions to food insecurity”, he said, adding that the programme has since been expanded to other districts.