Agricultural experts have urged the Greenbelt Authority (GBA) to embrace public private partnerships (PPPs) and put smallholder farmers at the core of major irrigation projects.
The call comes as GBA has embarked on the implementation of mega commercial irrigation projects, including the $40 million (K31.2 billion) Nthora Ilora Rice Irrigation Scheme in Karonga, to enhance agriculture productivity and commercialisation.
In a written response on Monday, National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (Nasfam) chief executive officer Betty Chinyamunyamu touted irrigation as the catalyst for transforming the country’s agricultural production systems.
She, however, said what is critical is to examine the production models to ensure that they are inclusive of smallholder farmers in the targeted areas.
“In fact, the market must be the starting point so that production is targeted at specific identified markets and not first doing production and then struggling to find markets,” she said.
In a published tender document, GBA has budgeted public funds in the 2021/22 fiscal year for the construction of Nthora Ilora Rice Irrigation Scheme.
Treasury has allocated K2 billion for GBA projects against the budgeted K5 billion.
In an interview on Monday, agricultural policy and development expert Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said agricultural transformation should take the PPP model .
He said GBA is critical for attracting private investment for agricultural production and agro-processing.
“If we are talking about agricultural transformation without matching action, then it will be meaningless,” said Nkhono-Mvula.
On his part, GBA acting chief executive officer Amon Mluwira said they hope to realise additional resources from partners through PPP arrangement.
“We are courting other investors on our own to complement where government is falling short, but we are hopeful that additional funding will be provided later,” he said.
The multi-billion kwacha project, a commercial joint venture to be implemented under PPP model, will help farmers in Karonga and surrounding districts to go commercial in rice farming.
The GBA plans to implement several large-scale irrigation projects, including rice irrigation scheme, cannabis irrigation scheme, bamboo plantation irrigation scheme, legumes irrigation scheme, livestock project and wheat irrigation scheme project, among others.
GBA has three known joint ventures, namely the Indian AUM Sugar and Allied Limited trading as Salima Sugar Company, Israeli firm, Inosselia Agro Africa Limited running a horticultural Greenbelt Greenhouse Limited as well as the Nchalo Greenbelt Initiative Limited in partnership with Nchalo Smallholder Cane Growers Association.