The 847.5 hectare Mushandike Irrigation Scheme has helped over 565 community members drawn from 11 villages adapt to changing climate since its establishment in 1986.
The irrigation scheme, whose water is supplied by Mushandike Dam, is one of the most successful of the few irrigation schemes in Masvingo province.
Being in ecological region 4 and 5 thus receiving average to below average rainfall, rain-fed agriculture in much of the province is becoming increasingly difficult.
For the Mushandike community, the story is different as their irrigation scheme has thrived over the years with beneficiaries being allocated 1.5 hectares each.
The scheme’s irrigation development committee chairperson Denhere Bhusvumani said one third of the beneficiaries were women.
“Women are most affected by climate change so we are trying our level best to make sure that we involve more of them into the scheme. There is still room to expand the irrigation scheme so that we take more beneficiaries with a special bias towards women.
“We are happy that the beneficiaries are putting the land to good use and improving their livelihoods,” said Bhusvumani.
With climate change threatening livelihoods across the globe, he said, Mushandike Irrigation Scheme was one kind of adaptive mechanisms needed by rural communities.
“We have our own challenges in terms of infrastructure within the scheme for instance some canals are worn out due to aging but we are happy with the support we are getting from the government to rehabilitate them.
“The supply dam (Mushandike) has a lot of water and people are putting it to good use. We hope people in other areas will get this kind of opportunity to farm throughout the year so that they too can help build food security for the country,” said Bhusvumani.
The province hosts the country’s two largest inland water bodies in the country, Lake Mutirikwi and Tugwi Mukosi, but these are largely idle with a small fraction of their water channelled for sugarcane irrigation in the Lowveld.
Tens of thousands of hectares of irrigation were earmarked to be developed for Tugwi Mukosi water but nothing has materialised since the dam was commissioned in 2017.
Secretary for Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Dr Jefta Sakupwanya said government was committed to irrigation development to cushion communities against climate change.
“Masvingo has many water bodies and all of them will be put to good use. Irrigation development will be a key area as we fight to cushion our people against the effects of climate change.
“This province will be the bread basket of the country once we put our irrigation plans in order. The Mushandike Irrigation Scheme is one such success story of cushioning communities against climate shocks,” said Dr Sakupwanya.