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Limpopo National Park is the 1 million hectare Mozambican component of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. When the Park was proclaimed in 2001, a buffer zone was included along the Limpopo River. At the time, the boundary for the buffer zone was realigned to ensure that the 25 000 people living along the Limpopo River would have adequate space for their resource utilisation needs.
In 2010, Federal Republic of Germany, through Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), made funding available for the development of the buffer zone. The funds were used to undertake a feasibility study among 39 communities to grade the irrigation potential of the available land as a means to improve the communities’ living conditions and food security and also to reduce their dependency on the natural resources of the park.
Six communities from the regions of Massingir, Mabalane and Chicualacuala were selected as pilot projects, based on the following selection criteria:
the existence of a sufficient permanent water source;
soils with good water retention potential and not too uneven terrain;
proximity of proposed irrigation site to water source; and
most importantly, the communities’ readiness to contribute with the labour force and financial means to create and run the irrigation scheme.
The final report recommended the implementation of two pilot projects in each of the three regions. For Massingir district, the Cunze and Munhamane villages were chosen; for Mabalane district, the Pstima and Nyanga Nyanga villages; and for the Chicualacuala region, the Lissenga and Mbeti villages.
The pilot project included the purchase and delivery of equipment by the Park. Community support staff also provided technical and logistical assistance with the land survey, site preparation, equipment installation and operation. The communities formed irrigation user associations, contributed land and provided the labour for land clearing and preparation.
Funding from the French government through Agence Française de Développement (AFD) was used to procure pumps and to contract a local NGO (LUPA) to provide organisational assistance to the irrigation user associations in order to obtain legal status, create administrative and financial structures and provide support for production and commercialisation. The Park’s agrarian extensionists also supported the communities.
In addition to social upliftment and skills development, the schemes generate income through the sale of products. They also improve food sustainability and health thanks to the varied food source, while reducing the reliance on unpredictable rain fed crops. The first year’s harvest was very good and yielded over 4.9 tons of maize, as well as vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, tomatoes and cabbage.
Another 12 schemes will be added in the next two years.