Solar-power sweetens farmers’ lives


Evance Chadewa’s three-acre sugar cane farm in Chankhanza Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kanyenda in Nkhotakota is his lifeblood.

He switched from tobacco farming in 2016 after years of continued price fluctuations affected the green gold’s profitability.

Now, he is a model farmer teaching a constant stream of farmers who seek advice on new technologies that have propelled his success.

“With solar powered irrigation, you can irrigate when it is sunny, but with a generator, you will need fuel to pump water. Whenever a generator is running [the pump], you have to use fuel. And the pump usually gets broken,” he says.

Chadewa with his solar equipment at a water source

Nkhotakota is typically hot and dry. Farming has always been a challenge, and climate change is making it even more worse.

With the rains becoming unpredictable, irrigation is becoming the way out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Armed with a solar-powered pump, Chadewa is now able to irrigate his farm cost-efficently unlike the time when he was using a diesel engine.

“I used to spend about K24 000 on fuel per week,” he says, adding that with a solar-powered pump he easily recovers the buying price of the equipment.

Chadewa, who started irrigating his cane field in 2017 says, this year’s yield has almost doubled from last year’s 175 metric tonnes (MT) to 291MT.

Total Land Care (TLC) programme officer Richard Mseka whose organisation  is linking farmers to a South Africa-based firm providing the technology says farmers can use the increased income from irrigated farming to pay off the pump within one or two years.

The solar equipment set includes four solar panels valued at K1.5 million.

“The farmer then has access to a device which increases her income two or three times for the next 15 to 20 years.

“By reducing reliance on rainfall, pumps also lessen the risk of crop failures caused by drought,” he observes.

The cost of the solar equipment is a hindrance to many farmers who have no access to financial institutions.

“Banks in Malawi are generally reluctant to lend to farmers because they are considered a high risk group in servicing the loan. And if they do, there is a huge collateral or a source of reliable income as a security for the loan. So, through this initiative, we want to change the status quo,” says Mseka.

However, through TLC’s partnership with irrigation equipment supplier Blue Zone and NBS Bank, farmers can access loan for the supply of equipment.

NBS Bank agribusiness officer Maxon Magugu says the institution will provide about 300 loans to rural commercial farmers over the next 12 months through the partnership.



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