Once a beacon of hope giving life to more than 600 families and surrounding areas through agriculture, Mushandike Irrigation Scheme productivity has declined due to a number of challenges, chief among them water shortages and land misallocation.

At its peak, Mushandike Irrigation Scheme used to provide food to more than 200 plot holders, with excess being sold.

In times of drought, villagers from areas like Gutu would travel to the scheme where they offered their labour in exchange for food.

A visit to the irrigation scheme by ZBC News this Tuesday (today), revealed a desperate state of affairs with most of the land lying idle as plot holders grapple with water challenges resulting from low rainfalls in the 2018/2019 summer cropping season.

Water levels in Mushandike dam are currently pegged at 8 percent.

The plot holders have urged the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement to consider channelling water from the hardly utilised Muzhwi dam to the irrigation scheme.

Apart from the water challenges, the bulk of the grazing land at Mushandike was illegally sold to villagers from surrounding areas who have since built their homes on the land, thereby affecting agricultural activities.

Tapping of water from Muzhwi dam will require investment in infrastructure with the Masvingo acting provincial Agritex officer Mr Aron Muchazivepi saying that that option is being considered.

“We would want to utilise water from Muzhwi dam for farming activities in Chivi as well as Mushandike. Also the issue of grazing land, the government is issuing eviction notices to those who are on grazing land,” said Mr Muchazivepe.

Masvingo Province has a total of 68 irrigation schemes with 41 fully productive, 20 partially functional while 7 are lying idle.

Utilisation of irrigation schemes to full capacity is one of the drought mitigation measures that can be harnessed as the country prioritises becoming food secure.