Government has commended the European Union (EU) for funding irrigation programmes under the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, saying they will alleviate food insecurity in the country and economically empower prople.
Speaking when he commissioned Tchanga Irrigation Scheme in Dedza yesterday, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa said government has prioritised irrigation as one of the key drivers of economic growth.
The Tchanga Irrigation Scheme, implemented under the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach programme (Aswap), is part of a 69 million euro (about K55 billion) project which started in 2016 and targets five irrigation schemes in five districts.
Said Nankhumwa: “I commend the EU for this timely support. The EU is supporting the Kulima Programme where the irrigation sector will be supported with technical assistance for feasibility studies and capacity building.”
He said as a way of recognising the need to enhance irrigation, the ministry developed the Irrigation Master Plan and Investment Framework which runs from 2015-35.
On her part, EU team leader for sustainable agriculture Beatrice Neri said they are committed to ensuring that the country develops 200 hectares of irrigated land through the 69 million euro irrigation financing.
She said: “Irrigation is key to agriculture especially for smallholder farmers who rely on rain fed agriculture. We can have water all year round but what is key is to have a strategy to say if we produce more what is the consumption and business strategy.
“We are committed to building more of these and ensure that there is an establishment of water users association and cooperatives to work together to manage the schemes, to champion environmental management and sustainability of the catchment area of the water source”.
Neri called on the private sector to participate in the implementation of irrigation projects, saying government and development resources may not be enough.
Chairperson for Nakalanzi block at the scheme Rudoviko Gomola said they have been facing hunger in the area due to the erratic rains orchestrated by effects of climate change; hence, the irrigation scheme will help livelihoods to be food sufficient and become economically empowered. The commissioning of the project also follows President Peter Mutharika’s commissioning of Bwanje Dam for similar purposes.