Malawi embarks on irrigation development

Hit by successive lean agricultural seasons, Malawi has launched an irrigation drive with the support of the African Development Bank (ADB) and non-governmental organisation, ActionAid Malawi. ADB has given the Malawian government a grant of US$4.1 million for the Small Holder Irrigation Programme (SHIP). The funds will be used to buy motorised and treadle pumps to be given to farmers, who will also receive water tanks and pipes to move water from streams. One motorised pump can irrigate 22 to 30 hectares per day and government hopes to boost the agriculture activity through this investment. Only 62,000 hectares of Malawi’s land is under irrigation and the target is to increase this to 83,000 hectares. The farmers will group themselves into schemes and government will provide the requirements without any condition. Minister of Irrigation and Water Development, Sidik Mia, said irrigation will mitigate the adverse effects of drought and food insecurity in the country. Government statistics show that 40 percent of the population in Malawi lives under conditions of extreme poverty mainly blamed on World Bank and International Monetary Fund-backed structural adjustment programmes in the early 1990s and natural causes like drought. Mia handed the first pumps to farmers at Mgulula, Makande irrigation schemes in Thyolo district in southern Malawi on 5 April. He also presented one irrigation pump each to Limbuli, Bafuta, Chimwemwe and Nang’ona irrigation schemes. He challenged the farmers to engage in commercial farming using irrigation technology so that they produce enough to feed their families and sell the surplus. Like several other countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Malawi has been experiencing successive dry seasons in the past few years, leading to acute shortages of food. The country has had to rely on intra-regional trade and humanitarian assistance to meet the shortfall between actual output and annual consumption needs. The irrigation programme is in line with provisions of the 2004 SADC Dar es Salaam Declaration under which member states undertook to, among other things, invest heavily in irrigation infrastructure, increase food production and establish a regional food reserve. SADC member states agreed to allocate at least 10 percent of their annual national budgets to agriculture and irrigation was given priority. ‘

April 2006
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