THE Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Dr Joseph Made, implored Manicaland farmers to quickly adopt cheap irrigation technologies to boost production.
He revealed that most parts of the province were affected by drought and that his ministry was taking an audit to establish the written-off maize crop hecterage.
Preliminary findings of the audit in Manicaland released on Tuesday indicate that cereal crops in regions one to three were in a better state than last year.
Manicaland was expecting better maize harvests in Honde Valley, Cashel Valley, and the upper parts of Chipinge, Chiendambuya, Mayo, Nyazura and Rusape in Makoni and parts of Nyanga.
In drier parts of the province there were half chances of salvaging small grain crops.
Dr Made said cheap irrigation technologies were a critical response to climate variations and changes spurring droughts that has rendered the greater part of the province's ecological regions unsuitable for cropping.
Dr Made said Government would make sure that vulnerable households do not starve.
Dr Made said some farmers were lacking the initiative to harness the available water, at minimal cost, to their advantage and at the same time experience food deficits.
He said irrigated farming has a critical role in the promotion of sustainable livelihoods and achievement of food security in the country.
"There are some areas that are known for zero harvest, which will leave us with some pockets of vulnerable homesteads that will have to be assisted," said Dr Made.
"We had a unique season which had a combination of incessant rains which was superseded by an absolutely dry period. In those areas that have received incessant rains, nothing was done to harvest that water for irrigation purposes.
"In response we are emphasising on adoption of irrigation technologies that ensure efficient application of water to crops. We urge farmers to prioritise drip irrigation and self propelled irrigation systems.
"I would like to challenge farmers to take up small-scale drip irrigation seriously because those who are practicing this method have an excellent crop. We need to take advantage of the available flowing water to boost food production. This will remove the burden from the shoulders of Government. Drought relief food will be limited only to those areas that are drought prone," said Dr Made, whose ministry was taping knowledge from irrigation experts from Israel, Brazil, India, China, Austria, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Belarus, Egypt, Iran and Italy.
"It is therefore a fact that in these turbulent times with apparent climate variation and change, irrigated farming has a critical role in the promotion of sustainable livelihoods and food security in the country," said Dr Made.
Zimbabwe has capacity to irrigate 2 244 800 hectares, but despite the existing enormous irrigation development potential, only about 206 000ha is equipped, of which 150 000ha is currently irrigating.
154 500ha fall in the commercial subsector, while 51 500ha fall in the communal subsector.
The communal irrigation sector with a total equipped area of approximately 10 000ha is the most affected and vulnerable having less than 65 percent of the schemes fully functional.
A survey by The Manica Post in Manicaland revealed that the province was facing a tremendous challenge in meeting food needs of its rapidly growing population as the bulk of its crop suffered severe moisture stress and the quality of the remnant crop was inferior.
Manicaland planted 295 000 hectares of maize, of which 130 000ha were in dry prone communal areas and is now a write-off.
Most farmers, especially communal ones with the highest contribution to the total area put under maize - are unlikely to harvest enough food to feed their families - let alone surplus to sell.
Even the drought-resistant crops such as round and groundnuts, rapoko and sorghum have all been written-off as a result of the prolonged the dry spell.
These areas will record a zero harvest and will continue needing food aid.
The evaluation came at a time the province was facing a food deficit after a third of the 2011/12 maize crop was declared a write-off.
Of late, severe hunger has been plaguing Manicaland, with 15 percent in dire need of urgent food aid, according to the latest Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) report.
The World Food Programme is currently assisting about 209,364 vulnerable households with drought relief food in Manicaland with grain, cooking oil, cow-peas or beans and $3 per each registered household member.
The situation was really bad in Buhera, Chipinge, Mutare, Makoni, Chimanimani and Nyanga districts.
The ZimVAC report notes that Manicaland household size and dependency ration stood at 1.68, the third highest after Matabeleland South (1.85) and Masvingo with 1. 78
Buhera tops with the highest food insecure of 27.2 percent, followed by Chipinge with 23.9 percent. Mutare is the third with 18.9 percent rate followed by Makoni with 18.3 percent. Chimanimani is fifth with 11.7 percent followed by Mutasa at 5.0 percent and Nyanga with 2.2 percent.