Treasury has allocated a paltry K800 million to the Green Belt Authority (GBA) in the proposed 2019/20 National Budget, which is 88 percent below the K7 billion the authority proposed.
During a meeting on Monday that GBA officials had with joint parliamentary budget cluster committees of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Natural Resources and Climate Change, lawmakers observed that the low funding will affect the operations of the authority to develop irrigation farming.
GBA chief executive officer Henrie Njoloma told the legislators that the proposed K7 billion was meant to develop several irrigation projects nationwide.
In the initial proposal, GBA wanted K1 billion for the development of sugarcane irrigation in Salima but only K260 million has been allocated, K2 billion was proposed for the development of cotton irrigation project at Nchalo in Chikwawa but only K140 million has been allocated.
The authority also proposed K2.2 billion for rice and other related irrigation development project at Nthola-Illola in Karonga but only K100 million has been allocated.
It also proposed K490 million for rice irrigation at Malombe in Mangochi but nothing has been allocated. About K800 million was proposed for greenhouse project for high- value vegetable production at Lumbadzi in Lilongwe, but Treasury has proposed a K300 allocation.
In viewof this, Njoloma said if nothing is done to improve funding then GBA will be constrained to venture into proposed new projects that would increase irrigable land for production the country needs.
He said: “GBA requests that the total variance standing at unfavourable 88 percent be reduced to around 50 percent. This will mean that out of the requested amount, GBA submits budget allocation of at least K3.83 billion.”
Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development vice-chairperson Ulemu Chilapondwa said they will lobby for increased funding to enable the authority to initiate proposed projects.
“We are concerned as a committee because after scrutinising their budget, we found that whatever they proposed was significantly reduced downwards.
“We support their call for increased funding because greenbelt is important to the whole nation. We have been depending much on rain-fed agriculture and it is high time we took irrigation seriously by heavily investing in it,” he said.
During the last financial year, out of the approved K400 million for GBA operations, Treasury disbursed K357.8 million and out of K1.5 billion development budget, only K781.8 million was disbursed.