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Floods can boost agriculture—study

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Floods, which destroy crops, cause deaths and displacement of many people, could, if properly managed, enhance crop production in Malawi, a study has established.

Mphatso Malota and Joshua Mchenga from the Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation at Mzuzu University conducted the study in Lower Shire called: Revisiting dominant practices in floodwater harvesting systems: making flood events worth their occurrence in flood-prone areas.

The study results released last month, says constructing a network of field water ponds and shallow wells in the field enhances infiltration and water availability for immediate and future crop use.

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In an interview yesterday, Malota said the absence of well-designed networks of field waterways in the irrigation schemes results in an unequal distribution of floodwaters among field plots.

“The study concluded that in addition to digging a network of shallow wells and small water ponds to enhance infiltration of floodwaters and increasing groundwater recharge, a resilient and low-risk package of the floodwater harvesting system in the region must also include construction of floodwater diversion structures to increase the chances of flooding even from relatively small rainfall storms, construction of floodwater field distribution channel networks to facilitate field to field distribution of floodwaters,” he said.

Malota said formulating water distribution regulations to enhance equal floodwater distribution among field plots could also help equal distribution of water in field plots.

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Most developing countries in the sub- Saharan Africa, Malawi inclusive, face numerous challenges, which often prevent investments required to enhance rural livelihood through crop production.

The report notes that for example, in the past decade, the country registered an annual average of 12 percent maize yield production losses due to flood-related crop damage.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has said it will comment on the study once it gets hold of the same.

In March, Malawi was hit by Cyclone Idai which caused flooding where crops, livestock were destroyed, 61 people died and over 600,000 were displaced.

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