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Issue Date: February 2005

A first of its kind: irrigation development, a R3,7-billion SADC project

1 February 2005

When farmers in the Moamba/Sabie district of the province of Maputo visited the Nkomazi area in Mpumalanga, they were impressed by the activities and success of these small-scale sugar cane farmers.
From this visit an idea was born to work together to develop a similar project in the district of Moamba, leading to the establishment of the Committee for the Facilitation of Agriculture between Mozambique and South Africa (Cofamosa).
Cofamosa is a dream come true for many farmers in the Nkomazi area of Mpumalanga. According to the Cofamosa arrangement, South African farmers will receive a 40% allocation of the proposed 29 000-hectare irrigation development for a period of 45 years. In exchange for the 45-year renewable lease, farmers will share their business and agricultural skills with their Mozambican counterparts as part of a skills transfer and job creation initiative.
"This R3,7 billion cross-border project is a first of its kind in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). We were extremely proud when we were appointed as project engineers, as it meant that we could contribute to improving the lives of thousands of farmers in the Moamba district," says Bernard Masher, civil engineering technician at Du Plessis & Burger Consulting Engineers.
The findings of Masher's pre-feasibility study delivered some interesting results. The investigation confirmed that there is sufficient high potential irrigation land available along the Komati and Sabie rivers. There is also enough water available for irrigation purposes from the Corumana dam on the Sabie River. This dam was constructed in the late 1980s and provides an excellent supply of water for the proposed 29 000 ha irrigation development.
Corumana Dam
Corumana Dam
"According to our study, it would be viable to raise the Corumana Dam in order to increase its gross storage capacity from 880 to 1375 m3. This will cause the Sabie River to back up into the Kruger National Park across the South African/Mozambique border. The raising of the Corumana Dam is currently in progress with a $38 million funding from the World Bank," notes Masher.
The project has significant implications for the district of Moamba and the Mozambican national economy. It has the potential of generating a total of 18 000 permanent jobs and 7500 additional ones. This equates to more than 70% of all the economically active people in the area. Furthermore, additional people will be trained in construction skills for irrigation infrastructure and these people will be responsible for maintaining the infrastructure during implementation.
A total of 200 farmers were selected for the first phase of the project, of which 80 are from the South African Nkomazi region and 120 from Mozambique. The 29 000 ha irrigation development will be developed in three phases, with phase one and two consisting of 10 000 ha each and phase three 9 000 ha.
According to Masher, the advantages of farming with sugar cane and other irrigated crops are numerous. "It has a relatively low operating cost compared to other dry land crops and the capital invested is far easier to manage, preventing financial mismanagement. Irrigated agriculture is also relatively easy to grow, allows financially sound crops to be selected, and because of the relationship between the farmer and the agro-businesses, is easy to finance and collect debts and production credits. In addition, the export of the crop has the capacity of generating huge amounts of foreign currency for the Mozambique economy."
Civil engineering software will be used quite extensively in the actual feasibility study, requiring an in-depth engineering investigation with the help of Civil Designer and AllyCAD. The investigation will focus on a major bulk irrigation water supply system, bulk electricity supply, road infrastructure, irrigation land and agro-business developments.
Bulk water, electricity distribution and tarred roads will not only impact on the farming community - the electricity will become available to all households in the area. In addition, the upgraded roads will improve tourist access and benefit the local economy, allowing the local and national economy to receive a substantial boost.
"We have proposed that Government funds the bulk infrastructure in the proposed developed area, while farmers fund their in-field irrigation equipment and production cost through loan funding. The new agro-businesses will be funded by private enterprises," explains Bernard.
This kind of investment will have major long-term benefits for the national economy of Mozambique and the expenditure on bulk infrastructure will be repaid over time by the Government from water levies and the income tax that the farmers and the agro-businesses will be paying. The Cofamosa Irrigation Development project will take a total of nine years to implement.
For more information contact Yolanda Desai, Knowledge Base Software, 021 701 1850,

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