Alliance One, a tobacco leaf buying company, has earmarked about K280 million (about $666 000) to build five water reservoirs in rural areas targeting the company’s tobacco farmers who are under contract farming, the company’s leaf production manager Ronald Ngwira has disclosed.
Meanwhile, the company has already built a K25 million (about $60 000) worth dam in Traditional Authority Dzoole in Dowa, which was handed over to the farmers last Thursday.
“We got a request from our farmers, who said they were facing problems in accessing water to irrigate their tobacco and were relying on water from the dambos and boreholes,” said Ngwira.
He indicated that the dam will benefit over 500 farmers translating into over 1 000 farm families benefiting. The dam is one of the five dams to be built in different locations such as at Mpherembe in Mzimba and Nambuma in Lilongwe.
“The whole project in building the five dams and other related activities is expected to be completed by December this year,” he added. The project is also being implemented with support from Phillip Morris International.
Eliya Kamphamtengo, chairperson for the area’s tobacco farmer club called Alinafe, who are the beneficiaries, confirmed that they have been facing serious problems in accessing water to irrigate their crop. “We have welcomed this dam as it will ease our challenge in getting water,” he said.
They have been relying on hunting for water by digging wells in marshy areas.
Deputy director of irrigation services in the Ministry of Irrigation, Chawanangwa Jana commended the assistance from Alliance One and disclosed that the country is failing to significantly use all its land fit for irrigation.
“The country has over 600 000 hectares that have potential for irrigation yet we are using close to 96 000 hectares only,” said Jana.
Among other constraints to development of irrigation are; dams are expensive to build, there is less investment in irrigation and there is need for government and private sector to join hands in developing the sector.
Tobacco farmers need a lot of water to irrigate the crop when it is at nurseries.