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Government targets 285,000 farmers in irrigation project

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As one way of responding to the impact of climate change and the impending hunger crisis, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has disclosed that it will roll out an irrigation initiative targeting 285,000 smallholder farmers across the country.

Malawi is facing a food crisis for the second year running and government says if no interventions are made, up to 8.5 million Malawians will face food shortage during the lean period later in the year.

In response, government has earmarked intensifying irrigation as a short term and medium term intervention to stem the crisis.

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Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda disclosed this Thursday during a tour of some projects being implemented under the Climate Adaptation for Rural Livelihoods and Agriculture Project (Carla).

According to Chaponda, under the intervention, 75 percent of the irrigable land will be developed to ensure that Malawi is food secure once again.

He said it is necessary for Malawi to move with time and intensify irrigation to deal with food crisis.

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“Irrigation is the way to go in dealing with the food crisis. As we know, if nothing is done by December, close to 8.5 million of the population may face hunger. We will distribute 27 solar panels for irrigation across the country as one way of dealing with the problem,” said Chaponda.

Among some projects that Carla is implementing in Chikwawa include poultry farming and aquaculture.

One of the schemes in the district, the Chimphepo irrigation scheme, where a seven-hectare piece of land is being watered using a solar-aided water system, will benefit close to 100 households.

Chaponda said he was impressed with the hardworking spirit of the people at the scheme and encouraged them to continue

with the initiative as they will not face challenges once the Carla project comes to an end.

Carla project manager Charles Mwalabu said he was pleased with the progress of the project, adding that plans are underway to extend it to other districts.

The US$3 million project is being implemented with support from the Global Environment Facility through the African Development Bank.

The Carla project has been implemented in Chikwawa, Dedza and Karonga since 2012.

The Second Round Agricultural Production Estimates Survey (APES) released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development in March showed that maize harvest would decline by 12.4 percent over last season harvest.

The ministry said this year’s maize production would be the lowest average in the past five years.

Among its responses, government has engaged commercial farmers to produce irrigated maize for sale to government to fill the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR).

It is estimated that about 4,500 hectares, out of available irrigable land under private sector, will be deployed for maize production.

This could result in the realisation of about 25, 000 tons of maize.

The estimated cost for this activity is about K6.8 billion.

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