From left: Judith Zivuku (in Blue t-shirt) and gogo Mutasa keeping guard of the fish eagles at the cooperatives two fish ponds in Masvingo.
Looking at the way Judith Zivuku (32), son Tinashe (4), gogo Mutasa (68) and grandson Tapiwa (3), sat shelling groundnuts, one would be made to think the four were just seated to pass time.
But after a brief conversation, it became clear to all the media practitioners that toured Chebvute Irrigation Scheme that the four were actually on duty, even though they appeared to be sitting down shelling groundnuts.
One of the two fish ponds at Chebvute
In actual fact, the four checked in on duty two hours earlier, at 10 am and expected to knock off at around 4 pm to keep guard of the Fish Eagles (Kondo) which are threatening to extinguish one of their successful money spinning project, the Telapia fish farming project.
The fish farming project is one of the many projects that people under headman Radis in Chief Shumba’s territory have been doing since 2017 when the programme was initiated by one on the UN agencies, World Food Programme (WFP).
Part of the garden at Chebvute
“Life has always been difficult for us here in Masvingo especially taking into consideration that the region is not all that favourable in terms of rainfall patterns. However, the UN through its agencies have done a lot for us, now we can have everything that we want in terms of infrastructure, food, water and even a better lifestyle,” said visibly excited Zubuku.
She added, “I am married, Yes, but my husband is not employed, but for now with this cooperative farming project, we are having a fair share of life, we can afford to send one of our kids to school while we provide for or families.”
The projects started in 2017 with villagers coming together to put up structures and assets that include garden and fish ponds.
In 2018, the cooperative moved a gear up and started production which have seen them run a money spinning fish farming project, a ‘Rainbow garden’, bee project, as well as road runner chickens project.
“The simple reason you see us sitting here is we are keeping guard of the Fish eagles (kondo) which usually pounce on our fish. So as members of the cooperative we take turns to come here and keep guard. However, we though it was going to be prudent if we bring our groundnuts so that we can shell while we keep guard,” said Zivuku.
She added, “We call this one a Rainbow Garden because any mother will get everything that she would want for the kitchen. Our projects complement each other as we use things like bad vegies for the fish, while we use chicken feed for crop production.”
Zivuku also made it known that the community has been facing severe water problems.
“We have been facing water problem of late because if the small dam there runs dry, we would then be required to get water from far away sources. So we have suggested to increase the size of the dam this winter so that when rain falls, the dam will be able to hold an improved quantity of water which might help us in the long run.”
She however thanked UN and its agencies for putting in place a solar powered engine that draws water from the bodies that are some kilometres away to complement their usual water source.
Part of the equipment donated to Chebvute farming cooperative
However, it is a similar situation with yet another UN initiated project at Stanmore Irrigation scheme North of Masvingo town, bankrolled by yet another UN agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Erita Chiomberekwa, a 60 year old window says she has lived to see the benefits of the land reforms.
“I am a widow yes, but I have managed to do wonders since the time we came into this farm coming from Mapanzure near Morgenster in 1999 during the land resettlement programme. This has changed our lives in more ways than one.”
She added, “We have Mutilikwe Dam constructed by the white farmer who used to do potatoes here. The dam is full of water all year round, what we need now is a better diesel powered generator in case power cuts persist, otherwise we are right here.
Solar power systems installed at Chebvute
Stanmore Irrigation Scheme Chairperson Amon Bumhudzo said the Irrigation scheme came into existence in 2004 with 32 farmers who have been practicing group farming over on the 32 hectare land which has been divided into four main blocks.
According to Bumhudzo, in Block A, every farmer has 0,25 hectares of wheat while in Block B every farmers has 0,1 hectors of cabbage. The farmers are also allowed to plant any other horticulture crops on the remaining land in Block B, including tomatoes, vegetables among others.
The third Block has been set aside for maize under the Command Agriculture scheme where they have been planting the 727 maize variety.