3/27/03 11:18:42 AM (GMT +2)
Financial Gazette, South Africa
A TEAM of wildlife and agricultural experts has been dispatched
to Hurungwe Safari Area to assess whether the Mashonaland West wildlife
sanctuary will be affected by a government irrigation project that
is supposed to grow winter crops to alleviate food shortages, it
was learnt this week.
Environmentalists said the team comprised officials from the National
Parks and Wildlife Authority, the Agricultural Rural Development
Authority (ARDA) and the Agricultural Rural Extension Services (AREX).
The environmental experts, who spoke on condition of anonymity,
told the Financial Gazette that the team had established that the
sanctuary, located in the lower Zambezi valley, was a National Parks
They said the team would compile a report that would outline the
potential impact on the safari area of the Nuanetsi irrigation project,
under which the government has contracted a Chinese company to develop
100 000 hectares of land.
Environmentalists say the Hurungwe Safari Area could be ploughed
through under the irrigation project, which would affect the wildlife
within the sanctuary.
The safari area is a sanctuary for cheetahs, leopards, elephants
and black rhino, among other wildlife.
Sources said a report by the ARDA-National Parks-AREX team could
be submitted to the Environmental Ministry in the next few days.
“A team comprising ARDA, National Parks officers and AREX
was sent to the area and their conclusion is that this ploughing
should not happen,” one source said.
“After the investigations, it has now been established that
this programme is going to affect the Hurungwe Safari Area and a
report will be submitted to the minister of environment sometime
Environment and Tourism Minister Francis Nhema this week confirmed
that a team of investigators had been sent to the Hurungwe Safari
Area, but said no firm decision had been taken on the matter.
“A team of investigators was sent to the area to see if indeed
part of the National Parks was affected by the food initiative,”
he told the Financial Gazette.
“They have prepared a report, but I have not seen it as yet.
I will be getting it any time and then we will make a firm decision.”
However, Mashonaland West Governor Peter Chanetsa said the findings
of the investigators would have no impact on the irrigation project.
He said: “We will continue to plough, what do you want us
to do? The reason for this programme is irrigation, and it would
save us a lot money on the import bill because money that was supposed
to be used to import maize would be used for something else, like
the importation of cooking oil.”
The government says the Nuanetsi irrigation project will alleviate
food insecurity in Zimbabwe, where close to eight million people
are in need of emergency food aid because of shortages resulting
from drought and a controversial land reform programme.
Low agricultural output has forced the government to import food
to avert starvation, a programme that has been hampered by the country’s
severe foreign currency shortages.
Meanwhile, Chanetsa said sugar cane producers had operated for
several years close to the Hurungwe Safari Area without affecting
“Other companies who used to irrigate their sugar-cane, how
were they surviving?” he said.
“There is a lot of water in that area from the Zambezi, so
we will continue with our plans,” Chanetsa added.