Masvingo – Dendairy, the investor behind the planned Lucerne grass growing project in Chiredzi has embarked on a massive awareness campaign following stakeholder resistance to the multi-million-dollar venture particularly in Chilonga where farming is to take place.
Dendairy reiterated in a statement released on Friday that there will be no evictions of villagers due to the project.
Instead the project will turn Chilonga into a green belt that is export driven and will transform the region’s way of doing agriculture while drastically lifting the standards of living.
Other than Chiredzi, the Lucerne growing project will spread to other parts of the country where Lucerne growing hubs will be established but Lucerne processing and banks for export will remain in Chilonga. The project will feed into the country’s national cattle herd revival with a Government target of a US$1,9 billion livestock sector, said the statement.
“Instead there will be a massive transformation of rural agriculture from heavily unreliable rain-fed subsistence farming to highly commercial equipment intensive commercial irrigation agronomy,” reads the statement seen by The Mirror.
The company identified key stakeholders that will be vigorously engaged before going full throttle with the project. Engagements with journalists started this week while the company’s teams are on the ground ‘building relations with chiefs and villagers in Chilonga and Masivamela’.
“The main objective of this exercise is to work with legally constituted community level development communication forums where facts about the project are unbundled,” reads the statement.
The Lucerne project was heavily politicized when it was announced last year with allegations that 12 000 families will be evicted from their land to pave way for the project. This naturally created resistance from local people and their traditional leaders.
Under the project, villagers will be engaged as out-grower farmers supplied with irrigation water, inputs, technical guidance and equipment on a cost-recovery basis, said the statement.
To fully gain the confidence and trust of the villagers, there will be trials of the project on a model 200 hectare Lucerne field for demonstration purposes. In this demonstration, farmers will be selected by the communities to produce Lucerne on an out-grower basis under irrigation conditions.
“A key factor underlined during the stakeholder engagement is that the investment direction will not warrant relocations of people. The model carries with it a vibrant out-grower component that will give villagers from Chilonga and Masivamela security of tenure. Farmers will receive all the necessary inputs, technical guidance, water and equipment on a cost recovery basis,” said the statement.https://masvingomirror.com