from PATRICK CHITONGO in Chiredzi
CHIREDZI – SOME sugarcane farmers in southeastern Zimbabwe are shifting to solar energy to fend off serious shortages of electricity in the country.
The power deficit afflicting the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) Holdings is affecting the operations of companies in the country already performing below capacity.
A consortium of 35 sugarcane farmers at Mapanza sugarcane estate in Chiredzi are thus in the process of adopting solar energy to irrigate the 500-hectare farm.
Louis Vhudzijena, said because of the shortage of power during the day, farmers are currently irrigating their plants during the night when electricity was better available.
This, he said, was posing danger to farmers’ lives.
“Since the beginning of load shedding by ZESA, we get electricity for only four hours at night and all the farmers cannot equally share the water. Most farmers end up failing to irrigate their fields and are now contemplating to downsize their fields,” Vhudzijena said.
He said energy was the only alternative energy to help them out of the current situation.
Work is in progress at the local Njiri dam pump house where farmers are setting up a solar grid that will help pump 5 000 cubic litres persecond to the fields.
Enviroplus, a local consultancy, is implementing the project.
It is anticipated to complete the project in a month.
Luke Mhaka, Enviroplus director, said solar energy was the most sustainable power source considering the Lowveld had the longest periods of sunshine in Zimbabwe.
“Farmers can immensely benefit from the abundance of sunshine by harnessing it into energy for irrigation,” Mhaka said.
He said the advantages of solar energy outweighed its cost.
“I am sure these farmers will enjoy their profits from farming using solar energy because they won’t be paying electricity bills anymore,” Mhaka said.
Elisha Tamirepi, newly-elected Zimbabwe Sugarcane Development Farmers Association Chairman, hailed the initiative at Mapanza.
He said solar energy would shield farmers from high electricity charges.
“ZESA is the most expensive component in sugarcane farming and as farmers we were always looking for alternative ways of minimizing ZESA costs. With solar irrigation technology, our prayers have been heard and answered. We are fully going to embed it,” Tamirepi said.
– CAJ News