In February 2021, the government issued Statutory Instrument 50 of 2021 gazetting about 12 500 hectares of communal land for lucerne production, which is used for making hay or animal fodder.
Part of SI 50 of 2021 reads:
“The area of land described hereunder in terms of this schedule shall be set aside with effect from the date of publication of this notice for the purpose of lucerne production. Any person occupying or using the land specified in the schedule, otherwise than by virtue of a right held in terms of the Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21,05), is ordered to depart permanently with all of his or her property from the said land by the date of publication of this notice, unless he or she acquires rights of use of occupation to the said land in terms of section (9) (1) of the Communal Land Act (Chapter (20,04)"
As a result of the lucerne grass project, the land use in Chilonga changed from communal to commercial land. The government said a new railway line would be built in the area to link Chilonga and the Nandi-Sango line.
The railway according to reports would be used to export grass to niche markets in Dubai and China via Mozambique.
Modern roads would also be built in the area with Dendairy also set to fund construction of an all-weather bridge across Runde River on the road which links Chiredzi Town to Chikombedzi via Chilonga.
A huge factory would be built to process the lucerne grass for export therefore creating employment.
In March 2021 there was an outcry following reports that thousands of families faced eviction. The reports were disputed by Ezra Chadzamira who said villagers in the area earmarked for the project by Dendairy would be incorporated into the project and empowered as out-growers in line with Vision 2030.
Chadzamira said only a few families would be moved from their homes to pave way for some developments under the project, but will still be settled within the same area to benefit from the project. Chadzamira said:
"We don’t know the motive behind those who are saying Chilonga people will be removed from their ancestral land to pave way for a project to grow grass. We have made sure that our people will benefit as out-growers and Government will not abandon its people. We made consultations from the lower levels right up to the political leadership and chiefs, but there are some who are trying to make political capital out of these consultations and spreading falsehoods.”
- Margaret Matibiri, Gvt speaks on Chilonga Lucerne grass irrigation scheme, ZBC, Published: March 6, 2021, Retrieved: March 8, 2021
- George Maponga, Chilonga out-growers to win in US$60m lucerne project, The Herald, Published: March 7, 2021, Retrieved: March 8, 2021