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Malawi government starts solar-powered irrigation

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Malawi government has favoured solar-powered irrigation and the process to implement the projects has started in the potential irrigable areas along Lake Malawi.

Minister of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza said the initiative was part of the implementation of the country’s first ever Irrigation and Investment Master Plan launched last year.

The minister said this after inspecting six newly developed irrigation schemes under the Karonga Irrigation Service Division- (KRISD) which comprises two districts of Karonga and Chitipa.

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In the districts, the farmers are growing various crops like rice, maize and sweet potatoes

The schemes of Timoti, Ukanga and Mphinga in the districts have been developed at cost of US$500 million under the Smallholder Irrigation and Value Addition Project (Sivap) and are using the river diversion and gravity fed technology.

The other three solar powered schemes are Chitindi, Lemero and Ndembwera which were constructed using resources amounting to US$93 million from the Climate Adaptation and Rural Livelihoods in Agriculture Project (CARLAP) Chiyembekeza said he was pleased to note that the schemes, which communities have started utilising, have increased irrigable sites in the two districts by 450 hectares.

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“I am impressed with the new schemes especially the solar irrigation system which is suitable for areas along the lake because of the hot weather conditions, however we need the private sector to come in and do this on a larger scale,” said Chiyembekeza.

The minister, however, was concerned with increasing siltation and drying up of rivers which has come about due to massive deforestation in the country and surrounding countries.

He said the country is paying a heavy price for this and will continue to struggle if the people do not take care of the environment.

“You people have seen what is happening here, even the newly developed schemes are already facing water challenges because of the siltation, this is a serious problem and almost every place is becoming non irrigable due to water challenges” Chiyemebekeza said.

His concerns also come as Lufilya Irrigation scheme lost over 200 hectares of rice as a result of the drying up of Lufilya River which was the main source of water for the scheme.

The minister hinted on alternatives such as use of underground water which requires a lot of energy and maximise use of the lake for irrigation purposes by using all available means including solar power.

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