Malawi’s quest to embrace commercial irrigation as a means to defeat hunger is a far-fetched dream without an established irrigation fund to finance the project, the Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) has said.
CisaNet national director of the network Tamani Nkhono-Mvula in an interview said the fund was supposed to be established 15 years ago.
He said the fund is supposed to be administered by the National Irrigation Board (NIB), according to Irrigation Act of 2001.
Nkhono-Mvula said without the fund, the country will not make headway in commercial irrigation farming because most medium scale investors cannot finance their projects using bank loans due to high interest rates which currently hover around 37.5 percent.
“The irrigation fund is the fundraising arm of irrigation farming and government can turn it into a revolving fund to support small and medium-scale investors in the subsector,” said Nkhono-Mvul.
He said the fund operates on low interest rates and offer better repayment conditions than the commercial banks.
Nkhono-Mvula said currently investors might not show much interest in the sub sector because of the high lending rates.
“If [Malawi] invested about K10 billion annually in the subsector, we would have been very far with commercial irrigation farming,” said Nkhono-Mvula adding that over the years government has had good irrigation policies on paper, but fails to implement them because it lacks the capacity.
In response to an e-mailed questionnaire, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development spokesperson Hamilton Chimala said currently, the department of irrigation with stakeholder participation has formulated irrigation fund guidelines which are being reviewed by the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development.
“Once the guidelines get endorsed, the Irrigation Fund will be formally established and then the minister responsible for irrigation will appoint board members of the National Irrigation Board, hopefully before the end of the year,” said Chimala.
He said the absence of the board is currently hampering the registration of irrigation consultants and engineers in the subsector. He said the board is also supposed to advise the government and other stakeholders on policy matters relating to irrigation and drainage.