President Peter Mutharika has launched a $222.7 million (about K167 billion) Shire Valley Transformation Programme (SVTP) aimed at uplifting smallholder farmers from subsistence to commercial farming.
Speaking during the launch of the 14-year programme (2018-2031) at Chikwawa Community Ground yesterday,
Mutharika said upon full implementation, the project will be the biggest irrigation scheme in southern Africa and will save Malawi from depending on rain-fed agriculture.
He said: “It will uplift smallholder farmers from subsistence farming to commercial farming.”
The project is being funded by grants from the World Bank ($160 million), African Development Bank ($50 million), Global Environment Facility ($5.5 million) and Malawi Government ($7.2 million).
In an interview on the sidelines of the launch, SVPT project coordinator Sandram Mawelu said the total irrigable area is 43 370 hectares and it will be abstracting water from Shire River at Kapichira and conveying it by gravity.
He said 279 550 smallholder farmers and other farmers within the project area are expected to benefit from the project.
Said Mawelu: “The objective of Phase I is to provide access to reliable irrigation and drainage services, secure land tenure for smallholder farmers and strengthen management of wetlands and protected areas in the Shire Valley.
“Phase I covers the area from Chikwawa North to the edges of Lengwe National Park and phase 2 covers the area from South of Lengwe National Park along the main road to Bangula South.”
Asked what crops will be grown under the scheme, Mawelu said farmers will decide the type of crops, although cash crops will get a larger portion of land to increase the income to pay for the management, operation and maintenance fees as well as other expenses.
He highlighted that the programme will ensure that farmers find reliable markets both locally and internationally, but he could not state how the farmers will source the farm inputs which remains a challenge for most smallholder farmers in the country.
On his part, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa said the project is historic as it is expected to contribute to national and socio-economical development through increased and sustained crop production, productivity, agro-processing and value chain improvement.
He said: “The ministry has embarked on a nationwide campaign to develop irrigation schemes along all major water bodies and train small-scale farmers to transform agriculture from being subsistence to commercial in line with the National Irrigation Master Plan and Investment Framework.”