Government has unveiled a US$40million solar irrigation project to improve countermeasures to the continuing erratic rainfall patterns due to climate change which is creating confusion in the farming calendar with farmers left guessing and counting their losses.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Command Fisheries launch at Insukamini Dam in Lower Gweru last week, Acting Director in the Climate Change Management Department under the Ministry of Environment and Water and Climate, Elisha Moyo said the US$40 million is being managed under his department in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Volunteers Programme (UNVP) to strengthen the Enhanced Climate Action Plan in six districts countrywide.
Moyo said the aim of the fund is to promote community adjustments to climate change in the country with some of the solar powered irrigation schemes already under construction, such as the Mubumbi Machakato Irrigation Scheme in Gokwe South.
“This is a government programme to educate people on the current environmental and climatic conditions in order to strengthen climate action so that people will be resilient and will be able to live-on even if the climate is changing.
“We know rains are decreasing, becoming erratic and are not able to sustain rain fed agriculture so this programme seeks to strengthen the adaptive capacity of communities like in this case in Gokwe South where they will be able to do irrigation, have disposable income to buy maize suppose they grow other high valued cash crops,” he said.
Moyo says the solar irrigation facility will also empower women and disadvantaged members of society have easy access to clean water.
“The peculiar thing about these irrigation schemes which are still being constructed is that it’s going to help women and the most vulnerable members of the community not to fetch water using their manual labor which can expose them to further diseases and can shorten their lifespan.
“So we are going to use our God given resources such as solar, the sun’s heat, to power that water and power those irrigation schemes,” he said.
Moyo says the department has not yet come up with the final draft of resource distribution among the six districts that have been identified for the initial projects.
“We are still to finalize the details but procurement of the equipment has just been completed. The whole project is in six districts in five Provinces which are Gokwe, Chiredzi, Buhera, Chimanimani, Lupane and Bulilima,” he said.
Moyo added that Lupane, under the same solar irrigation project, is the rehabilitation of Zinapi Irrigation Scheme which will have about 15 hectares under solar irrigation with another similar rehabilitation project in Bulilima.
The project includes solar installations, borehole drilling, rehabilitation of defunct irrigation schemes, developing green energy concept notes to source more funding, renewable energy use promotion and several others.
Green energy use in Zimbabwe is on the rise, as Moyo says, with people slowly understanding the need to use green energies which are way cheaper in the long run and friendly to the environment.
“In Zimbabwe it’s a growing field; if you look at some 10 years back people were largely using flood or gravity irrigation but as we speak people are accepting solar,” Moyo said.
He added that prices of solar panels has over the years decreased though still expensive for the average person, applauding the industry for its efforts in reducing the use of fossil fuels such as diesel or petrol to pump the water.
Meanwhile during the main event, Minister of Environment and Water and Climate, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri ordered for the rehabilitation of all dams in the Province to facilitate irrigation schemes and command fisheries starting with the US$200 000 and 30 tonnes of cement she donated from the Ministry to the Province.