Opinion: What the Re-construction of Tokwe-Mukosi Dam Means for Zimbabwe Economy
By Wellington Zimbowa
ZIMBABWE – Following the commissioning of the Tokwe Mukossi Dam – the country’s biggest inland water reservoir, Zimbabwe has launched an ambitious $1 million fishery project which is expected to transform rural citizens in the drought prone Masvingo province.
The reconstruction of the dam, whose flood induced demise in 2014 made international headlines as a national, political and humanitarian disaster, was completed in December 2016 at the cost of US$ 255 million.
President Robert Mugabe commissioned the dam this May at a function graced by government ministers, traditional leaders and the business community amidst calls for government, locals and private sector partnerships for full utilization of opportunities in areas of agriculture, tourism, economic and downstream sector.
According to media reports, the reopening of dam reconstruction dubbed “National Command Fisheries Programme”, rural youths, orphans, women and other disadvantaged groups are prime targets as a nutrition security and employment creation intervention.
“We must jealously guard this fisheries programme that is being spearheaded by the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority so that the fish that is being bred here at Tokwe Mokosi will also be stocked in other dams across the province so that Masvingo becomes a major fish producer in the province,” Shuvai Mahofa the provincial affairs minister was quoted as saying.
The massive aquaculture prospects of the dam are said to have triggered a gold rush from local investors in the country, according to one popular Masvingo province councilor.
“Preliminary reports indicate that over 20 000 applications for fishing licences have been submitted as individuals and companies position themselves to have part of the Tokwe-Mukosi cake and my fear is that local people will lose if they do not prepare to exploit the vast opportunities created by the dam,” Killer Zivhu, the councilor, was quoted recently in a popular daily paper while addressing hundreds of councilors from the province.
According to the Food Aid Organisation “aquaculture form an important component within farming systems development that can contribute to the alleviation of food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty through the provision of food of high nutritional value, income and employment generation, decreased risk of production, improved access to water, sustainable resource management and increased farm sustainability.”
Masvingo province is vastly de-industrialised and arid. Its food sustainability is largely dependent on donors and government handouts, with many youth trekking to neighboring South Africa for greener opportunities. However the province is remarked for its flourishing irrigated sugarcane estates largely run by South Africa headquarter Togaat Hullets in the south-east low-end.
Hopes are high that full utilisation of Tokwe-Mukosi’s irrigation potential will give a 15 percent sugarcane farming boost while opening up commercial horticulture opportunities.
Power generation is also another reward to be benefited as the lives will be more revolved around the reservoir. Thanks to the continual rain this season, 70 percent of the dam’s capacity is filled with authorities saying a $20 million power plant project is underway. Upon completion, expectations are that the 15 megawatt mini-hydro power plant will be enough to light up Masvingo province as a whole.
As VP Mnangagwa said, the dam has potential to irrigate 26,000 hectares of land downstream. We look forward to the Government and its partners moving with speed to clear the land to be planted with various crops. The size of the dam should be able to sustain a big tourism and hospitality industry also. As people come to trade in fish, participate in water sports on the dam or spend time on houseboats, they would need to stay in a lodge or hotel. Sections of the shoreline can be subdivided into high-end residential stands over-looking the dam for the wealthy to build holiday homes as is the case with Kariba Dam, Zambezi River and Nyanga.
It is widely recognized that aquaculture can and does play an important role in rural development. It is also recognized that aquaculture’s potential for contributing to rural development has not been fully realised in many parts of the world. On the other hand, the integration of aquaculture into rural development to date has been associated with both beneficial and inauspicious trends.
Effective rural development comes through sound governance. With participation at all levels, sustainable development will be people-oriented, integrated, and have a multi-sectoral agenda. Policy coherence must be a primary objective, developed through wide-ranging public involvement and, where necessary, through the promotion of effective representative organisations. Much greater emphasis on advocacy is required to raise awareness of the role of aquaculture in rural development and to raise the stakes for institutional change. Special attention is required to empower and link stakeholders to policy decisions.
Experience does not yield a universal model for integrating aquaculture into rural development. Thus there are significant challenges in developing holistic, people-centered rural development plans where the role for aquaculture is determined by an understanding of people’s livelihoods. There are opportunities and challenges for effectively integrating aquaculture into rural development.