By Brighton Muronzereyi

GOVERNMENT has directed the Agriculture Rural Development Authority (Arda) to manage all irrigation schemes across the country as the authorities are targeting to develop the country’s agriculture sector.

Speaking in Masvingo during a National Irrigation Competition prize giving ceremony at the weekend, Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka, pictured, said President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s vision of a prosperous and empowered upper middle income society by 2030 is anchored on a vibrant and robust agricultural sector.

“This is the context in which the 450 irrigation schemes are being transformed through overhauling the governance systems, ensuring that irrigation schemes are run as viable businesses, and assuring sustainability of the irrigation schemes and this is why Arda is now the designated business manager for these schemes.

“This is the new Arda transformed to deliver rural development and already 287 of the 450 irrigation schemes have been transitioned to Arda management and that many of these have become viable businesses again and  I urge Arda to ensure exchange visits so that communities can see why this new business model is being advocated.

“The revival of irrigations schemes is part of the government’s deliberate and broader thrust to climate-proof agriculture to assure household and national food security, eliminate grain imports, promote and diversify exports, create employment, enhance value addition and beneficiation, and accelerate the improvement of rural livelihoods,” Masuka said.

He said they want to transform the country’s agriculture sector

“Government is accelerating irrigation rehabilitation and development through dam construction and infrastructure development and this has seen the transformation and rebranding of Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA), Arda, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) to reposition these keys institutions to provide much needed support for rural development.

“The revived AFC, Arda and others, are ready to work with all farmers with AFC providing loans for farmers who run irrigation schemes as businesses while Arda will deploy scheme business managers to assist farmers,” said Masuka.

According to Masuka, the irrigation schemes competition was introduced to motivate farmers and to capacitate them.

“The competition should be reformed to include parameters such as progress towards Vision 2030 by measuring the upliftment of communities, improvement in incomes and social status, food security and other relevant matrices and the winning scheme must be that using the new model of the Vision 2030 Accelerator Model to better align with the President’s Vision,” Masuka added.

This year’s competition was won by Rupike irrigation scheme in Masvingo.