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Greenbelt irrigation scheme taking shape

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Following severe floods that hit most parts of the country towards the end of the last rainy season, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security has stepped up efforts to construct irrigation schemes.

This was revealed during a journalists’ tour to parts of the targeted 568 hectares of arable land in Traditional Authority (T/A) Symon in Neno and T/A Makata in Blantyre on Tuesday where construction of canals and dams is underway.

“The African Development Bank [ADB] has provided financial support towards Agriculture Infrastructure Support Project [ASIP] with a purpose of enhancing water use efficiency and production in the greenbelt zone,” said ASIP Project Coordinator Cosmas Lwanda during the tour.

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As part of accelerating the irrigation scheme, Lwanda said the 500 hectares earmarked in Mtengula Irrigation Scheme in T/A Symon will be using solar power for driving water from Shire River to the dams and from the dams to the fields during summer.

On the other hand, the 68 hectares of Mlambe Irrigation Scheme in T/A Makata, which shall be using Lirangwe River for irrigation, the water will be driven by gravity from the hills to the fields.

“Once the projects are operational, we project that the output of crop yields and farm income will increase.

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There will be increased sale of crops to markets with improved value addition and enhanced capacity of both farmers and members of staff in irrigated agriculture and marketing,” Lwanda noted.

The ADB is supporting irrigation schemes in Phalombe, Mulanje, Thyolo, Neno, Blantyre, and Chiradzulu districts, all under Blantyre Agriculture Development Division (ADD) while under Shire Valley ADD Nsanje and Chikwawa are benefiting from the programme.

Meanwhile, Chief Irrigation Officer for Blantyre ADD, Benson Sumani, said farmers’ dependence on a single annual rainy season resulted in perpetual food deficits.

“This situation is exacerbated by erratic rainfall patterns, dry spells, droughts and floods whose occurrences has increased due to effects of climate change as is the case in the 2015/16 consuming season,” said Sumani.

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