Communal farmers under the Shashe Irrigation Scheme in Beitbridge District expect to realise more than $100 000 from the sale of their citrus and horticulture products this year.
The scheme, arguably one of the highly organised irrigation schemes in the country, is run by about 200 families.
The scheme has become a major supplier of fresh oranges to Beit Bridge Juicing Company, a key subsidiary of Schweppes Africa Holdings, which manufactures Mazoe orange crush and other non-fizzy drinks. Business Chronicle visited the scheme on Tuesday and witnessed families harvesting the oranges.
“We have about 200 families under this scheme and each family owns 80 orange trees. As you can see we are now harvesting the fruit and this year we expect to get between 600 and 800 tonnes, which will give us almost $100 000,” said the scheme’s management committee chair, Mr Shadrack Bepere.
He said each family was expected to harvest five tonnes of oranges.
“We also grow sugar beans and this year we planted 60 hectares under a contract with Seed Co. We had a bigger harvest last year but this time we were crippled by floods. This project is doing well and whatever we grow tends to be 100 percent accepted because of the quality of the produce.”
Mr Bepere attributed their success to strong partnership with development partners who include BBJ, Schweppes, Cesvi, the European Union and surrounding commercial farmers.
Mr Bepere said about 90 percent of the scheme’s fresh fruit is supplied to BBJ while commercial farmers in the area produce mainly for the export market.
He said the scheme was working on expanding its operations as they have enough land and needed more investment to boost capacity.
Mr Bepere said they had adequate water to support growth but stressed the need to invest in micro-pit irrigation that channels water to a particular plant as opposed to using centre pivots.
The scheme is also contemplating using solar energy in its operations.
“We make contributions when we buy inputs in bulk or make certain payments. We are planning to buy tractors to till the land and trucks to transport our produce to the market. At the moment BBJ is providing us transport to ferry oranges to the plant,” said Mr Bepere.
He said farmers under the scheme were applying both manure and chemical fertilisers to boost their crop yield. - Chronicle