Nzega — Rehabilitation of 20 irrigation schemes in Nzega District, Tabora Region, will significantly improve food production, transform farmer's incomes and turn the district into one of the country's food security hubs.
Bearing this in mind, the government has approved a Sh1.6 billion for rehabilitation of an irrigation scheme located at Idodomo Village in the district. The project that would be implemented in two phases has been allocated to spend Sh800 million for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 fiscal years respectively.
Following the plan, farmers in the area have expressed their hopes to transform their earnings and living standards, insisting that no one should be left behind.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Citizen during a recent visit, Nzega District irrigation engineer Jumbe Kibori said the project survey and design showed that 300 hectares would be put under irrigation once the rehabilitation is completed.
"There would be 240 hectares more, compared to the 60-hectare farms that are currently being irrigated," he said in the interview.
Mr Kibori said rehabilitation of the scheme would involve clearing mud from the dam and building two irrigation canals of 2,500 metres and 2,150 metres each.
He said invested funds will also be used for construction of 10 water distribution canals, building a four-metre road surrounding the farms, commission 10 culverts and a 2,650-metre drainage canal.
"It is our expectation that after rehabilitation, rice production in the area will increase to an average of four to seven tonnes per hectare from the present two to three tonnes per hectare," the expert said.
According to him, since farmers were supposed to wait for the rehabilitation to be completed in the next eight months, his office would make a primary improvement to improve water distribution and control in the farms in order to support production this season.
The engineer sought cooperation from farmers especially by making a significant contribution of the five percent of harvests made per hectare to support irrigation development according to the laws and regulations.
"We agreed during our meeting with farmers in the village that they will surrender part of the land they own after infrastructure has been developed in the area. The move will benefit citizens owning no land at the project area," he said.
Addressing a rally, Agriculture deputy minister Hussein Bashe told Idodomo villagers that they were challenged to protect and maintain the irrigation infrastructure that are about to be rehabilitated.
"A village irrigation committee will be formed and tasked with collectingthe five percent levy for irrigation development.
"The amount will be used to commission new facilities and maintenance of the current schemes in the district and the country at large," he told the villagers.
Mr Bashe said farmers would be required to properly manage their livestock that are currently blamed for muddying the irrigation dam at the village.
"I happen to know well the significance of water to livestock. But, livestock will be prevented from messing up with the irrigation infrastructure," he said.
The infrastructure will be extended by several kilometres to provide the livestock with enough, clean drinking water," the deputy minister pledged.
Idodomo Village chairperson, Ms Wande Makundula said improved irrigation infrastructure would double rice production at the village, hence increased earnings.
She said the village and primary school owned six and seven hectare farms that are leased to farmers and therefore raising revenues used for implementation of development projects.
"Since rice production will be done twice a year, we expect a significant increase in revenue collections. Our expectation is that the council will convene a meeting of villagers to discuss how the farms will be managed after rearrangement," she said.
Ms Makundula said last season farmers spent Sh200,000 for leasing one hectare of land, Sh50,000 down from Sh250,000 that was charged in previous seasons.
Speaking on future expectations, Mr Ntima Kishirwa said increased production will improve individual income at the village and therefore enable them to invest in income generation activities.
"Revenue that will be collected by the irrigation committee should be used for construction of new irrigation projects and provide assurance for sustainability of the present infrastructures. Part of the money should be used for expanding irrigation services in order to benefit those who have missed cultivation land in the ongoing project," he suggested.
But, Mr Hamis Manoni was of the view that the council should consider at allowing a single farmer to own one hectare, a move that will own a large number of citizens.
"Nobody should be left behind from being benefitting. Benefits from increased production should enable citizens to invest in income generating activities, improve their homes and improve food security to families and the country in general," he said.
He supported Mr Bashe on to controlling livestock at the demarcated area; instead a special extension of infrastructure should be built to provide domestic animals with clean and safe water.
For her part, Ms Tatu Selemani suggested that land leasing charges should be reduced, observing an average of Sh200,000 to Sh300,000 charged per hectare adversely affected the final income of farmers.
"When these costs are coupled with the high prices of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, seeds and pestcides farmers are left with nothing to celebrate during harvests," she argued.
She said since the government had promised to rearrange the farms, the focus should be to benefit all villagers.
"Authorities should also ensure that there is efficient utilization of irrigation waters by setting a schedule that will be known by all farmers," she said.