THE National Irrigation Commission (NIRC) plans to put in place an irrigation service fee, as it seeks additional sources of funds to revive and set up new infrastructures across the country.
About 29 million hectares are potential for irrigation farming in the country, unfortunately due to limited infrastructures, only less than 700,000 hectares have requisite infrastructures.
NIRC Acting Director General, Daudi Nicodemus told Deputy Minister for Agriculture Hussein Bashe that NIRC also planned to establish an independent advisory and construction company that he said would help speed up the setting up of irrigation schemes.
“Government irrigation projects have been very expensive. The company will help reduce the cost of hiring foreign companies,” he said.
Mr Bashe, however, wondered whether farmers had been involved in preparations for the new fee, but NIRC explained that public opinion was sought from at least seven regions in which farmers showed no objection.
The DG said the irrigation service fee had already been endorsed and what was remaining was to publish it in the government gazette for it to be effective.
“Farmers are ready to contribute given that the money paid will support the sustainability of the irrigation scheme,” he said.
Similar irrigation service fees have been established in countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Gerald Kusaya announced that the ministry targeted to reach 1.2 million hectares by 2025.
For his part, NIRC Acting Director-General said the authority planned to complete 179 small schemes, 19 mediums and 19 large-scale schemes covering 136,938 hectares.
Mr Nicodemus explained that NIRC expected the private sector to also contribute by setting up infrastructures on over 150,000 hectares.
“We are also working hard to strengthen the irrigation fund which will help mobilise funds for irrigation infrastructures,” he said.
The Julius Nyerere Hydroelectric Power (JNHPP) also expects to support 3,600 hectares of irrigation, according to Mr Nicodemus.
NIRC, which was established in 2015 to improve irrigation farming and contribute to food security, believes it can play a significant role in enhancing the contribution of the agricultural sector to the GDP.
Currently, the agricultural sector accounts to 24 per cent on the GDP and expects to contribute at least 30 per cent by 2025.
Officials in the ministry believe such measures will help create more jobs and increase food security.
Mr Nicodemus told the deputy minister that the commission would also establish irrigation societies.