Agriculture experts have touted smallholder farmers’ irrigation schemes for achieving agriculture transformation and empowering rural livelihoods and economic growth.
The sentiments were expressed on Tuesday in Dedza by the Agriculture Transformation Initiative (ATI) and Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) during the official handover of two irrigation schemes to two farming communities under Traditional Authority Kachindamoto.
The schemes include the newly-constructed 10-hectare (ha) solar-powered Dzalanyama Irrigation Scheme in Ntakataka Extension Planning Area (EPA) and the rehabilitated 47ha Mgundu Irrigation Scheme in Golomoti EPA.
The schemes were damaged by flash floods caused by Cyclone Idai in 2019 and ATI provided a $250 000 (about K190 million) grant for the project while FUM managed the work that addressed infrastructural damage.
ATI country director Candida Nakhumwa said the rehabilitation of the two irrigation schemes aligns with government’s desire for agriculture diversification and ATI’s mission to prepare for a future of reduced tobacco demand.
She said: “We have noted that through irrigation, farmers are able to grow maize coupled with high-value vegetable varieties. They are able to produce twice a year.
“We will continue to encourage farmers to diversify from tobacco into other cash crops. As we are addressing production issues, we are also linking farmers to lucrative markets to achieve sustainable production.”
On his part, FUM president Frighton Njolomole said the country can achieve agriculture transformation if irrigation schemes are revamped and supported to thrive.
“We are reaching out to donors to consider supporting the initiatives of revamping irrigation schemes for the well-being of farmers and for economic growth,” he said.
Dedza district chief agriculture officer Joshua Mphande said the scheme has facilitated expansion of farming land and increased productivity for food, nutrition and economic empowerment for communities.
Mgundu Irrigation Scheme chairperson Piere Katola said the schemes are already impacting positively on farmers’ livelihoods.
Apart from spending on infrastructure, the ATI grant was also used to buy improved inputs and planting material, and technical support and training around management of the schemes.
The two schemes are projected to benefit about 500 farmers.