Government banks on small holder farmers’ irrigation schemes


Following the flop of the engagement of private companies to do irrigation farming, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development will this year ‘support’ already existing small holder farmers to grow maize for the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR), Malawi News has learnt.

In the 2015/16 farming year, the ministry awarded contracts to ten companies, who were supposed to supply a total of 9,879 metric tonnes (MTs) of maize but they only managed to deliver 3,793 metric tonnes.

Only four out of the ten companies managed to deliver maize to the SGR. Out of the four, only Demeter Agriculture and White Church General Dealers managed to deliver their targets of 2,800 and 40 metric tonnes respectively.


Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson, Osborne Tsoka, acknowledged that the system had some weaknesses and this is one reason the ministry has decided otherwise.

“It didn’t work in the 2015/16 farming year, so we will now utilize the already existing irrigation schemes. The current projection says 1.9 million farmers might be affected by the dry spell and fall armyworms.

The SGR will have a deficit of 283,000 metric tonnes (of Maize) so these farmers will replenish it with the irrigated maize,” he said, revealing that the ministry will provide the farmers with farm inputs such as fertilizer and seeds.


However, the ministry disclosed that even though it has such plans, it does not have funding yet to implement them. Reacting to this development, National Smallholder Farmer’s Association of Malawi (Nasfam) says it is pleased that government is making plans to respond to the probable food shortage.

“There are several other options too, including winter cropping of cassava and sweet potatoes. We are also complementing government’s efforts through the distribution of Sweet potato vines and Cassava cuttings,” Betty Chinyamunyamu, Chief Executive Officer for Nasfam told Malawi News.

She added that her organisation is confident that the completion of the National Agricultural Investment Plan, which focuses on scaling up diversification efforts, market development to improve food distribution systems, employing better climate change mitigating and adaptation measures will be included in the budgeting of the 2018/19 financial year.

According to Ministry of Agriculture, the dry spells have damaged most crops especially maize in many districts, particularly in the central and southern parts of the country.

Balaka, Chiradzulu, Machinga, Mangochi, Mulanje, Phalombe, Mwanza, Neno, Chikhwawa,

Nsanje, Thyolo, Zomba, Dowa, Dedza, Kasungu, Ntcheu, Salima and some parts of Lilongwe are the worst hit.

In his ministerial statement on the 2017/18 Agricultural season Dry Spell, Fall Army Worms outbreak and strategies to deal with them, Minister of Agriculture, Joseph Mwanamvekha said about 270,180 hectares are affected by the dry spells leaving about 707,389 farming households vulnerable to food insecurity.

“My ministry in collaboration with the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture organization country office also undertook a rapid assessment to quantify the effects of both the dry spells and the fall armyworms. From that assessment, our findings are indicating that about 40 percent on average of the maize produced in the districts affected by the dry spells will be lost while areas that have experienced Fall Army Worm attacks will lose 10 percent of their projected maize production,” he told the midyear budget review meeting of Parliament in Lilongwe early this month.

In 2016/17 farming year a total of 138,344 hectares were attacked (by Fall Army Worms) affecting 621,875 farm families.

Mwanamvekha said: “We also noted that the pest continued to attack irrigated crop in the season affecting 35,870 hectares by October, 2017….., in this current season, as at mid- January 2018, 375,580 hectares have been infested by this pest affecting about 1, 022, 735 farm households across the country.”

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