Chinese firm abandons Nuanetsi project


Augustine Mukaro

CHINA International Water and Electric Corporation (Ciwec) has disowned the much-talked-about Nuanetsi irrigation project citing differences with govern

ment over how it should progress, the Zimbabwe Independent heard this week.


Government is understood to have ordered the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda) to take over the project. Ciwec managing director Shang E confirmed his company was no longer in charge of the project but would not give details on the new developments.


“We are not in charge of that project,” Shang said. “We don’t have details of what is happening on that project. Your best bet for details should be Arda which has taken charge of the project.”


Shang could not explain their differences with government. He referred all questions to Vhe Pao, his office manager in Chiredzi. The manager could not be contacted by yesterday.


Arda chief executive Joseph Matovanyika could not be reached for comment as he was said to be attending a workshop.


Under the project, government announced in March that it had contracted the Chinese company to develop 100 000 hectares of virgin land in a multi-billion deal it said would be the panacea to Zimbabwe’s food crisis.

Media reports said the Chinese company had won the tender to clear 100 000 hectares of land for irrigation. The government announced it would grow three crops a year and turn Zimbabwe into the region’s bread-basket.


Farmers in the area this week said a mere 260 hectares had been cleared. Only 160 hectares were ready for planting.


Agricultural experts said the Nuanetsi project would not solve the country’s acute food shortages which have seen the government turning to the donor community to stave off mass starvation.


Another ambitious government initiative in the southeastern Lowveld – the winter maize project – launched last year has been abandoned after sugar estates said they had no land to spare.


There were poor harvests last year which made the project uneconomic to pursue.


“Firstly, the water for this proposed scheme would have to come from the Tokwe-Makorsi Dam,” one expert said.


“The dam, which has been beset by financing problems over the last 20 years, is only at ground level. It will take at least three years to complete, and then several years to fill up.”


Another expert said the proposed 100 000ha Nuanetsi project currently consisted of lines drawn on a map but there was nothing on the ground. There are also hills to be flattened and gullies to be bridged in a massive exercise to turn virgin bush into productive agricultural land.


“Then we come to the part where the taps have to be opened and the proposed crops watered. The huge network of irrigation canals, pipelines, roads, housing, schools and other infrastructure need to be set up. That will take many years,” he said.


The expert dismissed claims by government that the project could produce 21 tonnes per hectare on the same land. Under “absolute optimum conditions”, he said, production would be five tonnes per hectare.


“During summer the weather is too hot and in winter daylight hours are too short to produce a higher yield,” he said.

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