The Government has urged the private sector to participate in irrigation development saying Zimbabwe is endowed with water resources that have a potential to irrigate over two million hectares.
Speaking at a stakeholders' engagement in Harare yesterday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos urged farmers to invest in irrigation systems to climate-proof their agricultural activities that are currently facing threats from erratic rainfall patterns.
He said the country needed at least 350 000 hectares of functional irrigated land as the minimum capacity that will assure that the nation becomes food self-sufficient and a net exporter of grain.
The remaining 1,65 million hectares could be used to grow food exclusively for the export market.
"The Ministry is encouraging crowding in the participation of the private sector in irrigation development under the auspices of the Irrigation Development Alliance," Mr Haritatos said.
"Unsolicited offers are being accepted from private sector players who would like to finance irrigation development. The Irrigation Development Alliance offers a platform for risk sharing between Government, banks, private companies and farmers."
This comes at a time the country is targeting to put 420 000 hectares of land under irrigation by 2024, as the need to produce crops under irrigation keeps growing because of the ever-shifting weather patterns.
"As you all know, climate change is real and is negatively affecting the entire world. Food security therefore can only be guaranteed if irrigation development meets national demand."
The programme is part of Government's efforts to create an enabling environment for accelerated growth through enhancing irrigation development's viability and effectiveness to build the country's resilience to vulnerabilities and shocks that come as a result of climate change.
Dr Martin Moyo country representative of the International Crops and Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics said: "We won't be able to achieve much without partnerships so collaborations are going to be a keystone to the success of irrigation development.
"Creating synergies as key stakeholders within the sector is important and private sectors should be able to assist in monitoring moisture within the irrigation schemes which is very vital especially in the face of climate change.
"We need the private sector for investments in terms of infrastructure and human capacity so we have to work hand in hand as private sector and Government," Dr Moyo said.
Head group projects and advisory for AFC Holdings, Ms Alice Mapfiza also echoed the same sentiments saying government through treasury, private sector, NGOs, banks should come together and form a fund with clearly defined terms of reference for the success of a widespread irrigation development programme.