Smallholder banana farmers in at the Mutema irrigation scheme in Chipinge district in Manicaland province are set to benefit from a Food and Agriculture Organisation funded project that aims to expand hectarage of the crop under irrigation.
Nelson Mwakaitechi, chairman of the Mutema irrigation scheme committee said the scheme was working with FAO, the Government and Matanuska, a major banana supplying company to expand hectarage from 78,5ha to 86,6ha to boost output.
“We are aiming to increase our area under irrigation from 78,5ha to 86,6ha with the hope that we may also increase our earnings,” he said.
The 218,8ha irrigation scheme is benefiting some 346 smallholder farmers and is located 60km from Chipinge town.
The scheme was established by the government in 1932 but in 2000, the scheme was ravaged by floods which damaged the crop and infrastructure.
The FAO moved in to support the scheme in 2016 when it was operating at 30 percent capacity due to the collapse of irrigation infrastructure.
FAO’s intervention increased the capacity utilisation to 50 percent and is expected to rise to 100 percent once support for the project is completed.
The scheme uses underground water from boreholes located in the Save river basin.
Samuel Tsikada, operations manager for Matanuska, said production at the scheme had risen from 1,876 tonnes worth $576 000 in 2013 to 3,084 tonnes ($715 000) in 2017.
This year the scheme is targeting to harvest 3 500 tonnes of bananas worth close to $800 000.
Tsikada said farmer earnings have risen steadily from $172 000 in 2013 to $192 721 in 2017.
“Farmers are expected to earn about $200 000 this year. As Matanuska we are supporting their Trust Fund by setting aside 1 percent of the income for the fund. Farmers control the Trust Fund,” he said.
Since 2013, the scheme has produced 16 644 tonnes of bananas generating more than $4 million dollars.
Dr Peter Kormawa, the FAO Zimbabwe country representative, who was on a familiarization tour of projects in Makoni, Mutasa, Chipinge, Masvingo and Chiredzi rural districts, hailed the company for working closely with smallholder farmers.
“As FAO we fully support the partnership between the private sector and the smallholder farmers,” he said. “We are happy when we see farmers and the private sector working together. Smart agriculture is the way to go.”
However, smallholder farmers at Mutema irrigation scheme are not happy with prices they are getting for their crop.
“We are not getting much from the sale of our bananas,” said Mwakaitechi. “At present we only get 35 percent from the proceeds of our sales. The bulk is taken up by Matanuska and loans we get from CABS Bank. Its not enough and we are struggling as farmers.”
He said there was need to review the prices, loans and the contract with Matanuska.