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Blantyre farmers get largest solar power in Malawi

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Six hundred farmers from Traditional Authority Chigaru in Blantyre District are to start tapping benefits from a 60-hectare solar irrigation scheme to become fully operational early next year

The scheme which is at Bakasala comes courtesy of Millennium Challenge Compact through Millennium Challenge Account-Malawi using about K170 million.

Making his remarks during a media tour on the site, Director of Programmes at Foundation Irrigation for Sustainable Development (Fisd), Kondwani Nanchukwa, whose organisation is providing technical expertise on the scheme, says the largest solar irrigation scheme in Malawi will be open by early next year.

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He said the idea for the scheme was hatched by MCA-Malawi to prevent siltation in the Shire River which interferes with electricity generation at Nkula Hydro Power Station.

“This was an area where charcoal production was very high, and its effects cannot be overemphasised. Linjidzi River which is a tributary of the Shire River was pouring a lot of mud through siltation. Thus why MCA thought of giving the people something to do,” Nanchukwa said.

Water for the scheme is pumped by three 7.5 kilowatt-solar pumps which have a capacity of pumping 3,000 litres per hour each.

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Apart from using water directly from the Shire River, a 1.2 million cubic-litre dam was constructed to reserve water.

The scheme has been there since 2009 but did not have user-friendly irrigation system according to one of the farmers, John Robert, 38.

“The scheme was not as big as it is today. It was quite tiresome to irrigate because we were using treadle pumps which require a lot of energy and time. This is the easiest and cost-effective irrigation system I have ever come across,” Robert said.

He said every farmer is allocated 0.1 hectares which is considerably enough to produce over 70 bags of maize weighing 50 kilogrammes each.

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