By Prisca Gwandure
Earning the moniker ‘Watershed’ from its proximity to the Manjirenji-Mkwasine canal and the thriving small holder irrigation schemes, Ruware has become one ‘white beacon’ in Chiredzi North Constituency. Multitudes throng the community from surrounding areas such as Matedzi and Tapudzai, especially in the post harvesting season to buy or exchange their labour for maize and vegetables.
The evergreen community has become the centre of agricultural production in Chiredzi North Constituency and surrounding areas, thanks to the Land Reform Programme which saw communal farmers accessing water for irrigation from the canal, something that never happened before the adoption of the empowerment programme. The success stories in agricultural productivity especially by some outstanding farmers is typical example of how small holder farmers can substantially contribute to national food security.
Cereals such as winter wheat, maize; fruits and vegetables are grown under irrigation, and chilli is the most common cash crop. Most of the agricultural products are sold to as far as Harare, and Chiredzi town also provides a ready market for perishables. This has had a significant multiplier effect in the community.
The improved cash circulation has resulted in the growth and improvement of infrastructure especially at the local business centre where semi-urban residential infrastructure has been developed by local people, some with the proceeds from their farming activities and some from the businesses they conduct in the locality.
Agricultural productivity in the Ruware and the adjacent Nyangambe Communal Area in ward 23 has been enhanced by government support through the presidential input scheme and other support programmes such as Pfumvudza. Contract farming by private companies for beans and chilli production has also enhanced productivity in the community.
Despite such success stories, the communities in Chiredzi North are facing a number of challenges especially access to clean water which is important for the health of the community. The most reliable source of water for both irrigation and consumption is the canal, with water from Manjirenji dam.
As the country grapples with the challenges brought by the novel Coronavirus, which has not spared rural communities which have had offered sanctuary for urban folks in the first and second waves, ensuring access to clean water is one of the fundamental measures in the fight against the pandemic.
In Watershed in particular, there are no boreholes or even protected wells which can provide clean water for consumption. Villagers access water directly from the main canal or from small irrigation canals. The water which may also be contaminated with agrochemicals and fertilizers pose a health hazard to people in the community. The unavailability of running water at schools such as Duruwuyu Primary School, Ruware Primary School and Nyangambe Secondary School is one other challenge affecting the communities especially in this era of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Success stories in irrigation schemes are also blurred by the unavailability of proper irrigation infrastructure. Farmers rely on flood and furrow irrigation methods which have a negative impact on productivity and soil quality.
There is a need for proper support, and encouragement of collective efforts in irrigation infrastructure development. Cooperative efforts in production and distribution are also needed to ensure sustainable production and improvement of rural livelihoods.
Access to clean water should be enhanced through the drilling of boreholes especially at schools in the community. There is also a need for road rehabilitation to improve mobility and market accessibility as the main road linking the community and the town is now in a deplorable state.