Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza says Malawi’s Irrigation Investment Plan is projected to cost $2.4 billion (over K1.3 trillion) and would help increase the current irrigated area by 116 000 hectares (ha).
Currently, the country has the potential to irrigate up to 408 000 ha, but at the moment only about 104 000 hactares are used. Of the 104 000 ha irrigated, 52 500 ha are under smallholder and 51 500 ha have been developed for irrigation purposes, according to the minister.
Chiyembekeza said this last week at Birchwood Hotel in South Africa during the annual dialogue on agriculture focusing on agricultural trade and agricultural water investments.
Said Chiyembekeza: “We have, hence, developed the Irrigation Master Plan and Investment Framework to guide the expansion of the irrigation sub-sector over the coming years. The Irrigation Investment Plan is projected to cost $2.4 billion and increase the current irrigated area by 116 000 ha.”
Malawi is endowed with relatively abundant water resources in form of lakes, rivers and groundwater which agriculture experts say if harnessed can boost agriculture productivity and production.
He said major projects planned to be implemented include Shire Valley Irrigation Project covering 42 500 ha, Bwanje Dam including Bwanje Valley Irrigation Scheme expansion covering 2 600 ha, Songwe river covering 3 000 ha and the Greenbelt Initiative (GBI) Schemes covering 6 000 ha.
Many other projects, according to Chiyembekeza, have already undergone feasibility study stages.
The minister said with the irrigation investment plan, government foresees more stable productivity and production once implemented.
Malawi continues to rely on rain-fed agriculture despite having a range of water sources in form of rivers and Lake Malawi.