The Green Belt Authority (GBA) has urged the private sector to lead in irrigation investment as a measure of ensuring the country is cushioned from the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19).
In a written response yesterday, GBA acting chief executive officer Amon Mluwira said Malawi needs to embrace commercial irrigation farming in view of unreliable weather conditions resulting from climate change and now, the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said there is need for the private sector to inject enormous capital to increase national hectarage of irrigated land and embrace high-tech farming, like the Greenhouse project, to ensure that Malawi becomes an exporter of food to the world.
He said: “We believe that government is already doing commendable and great work in de-risking the agriculture sector by funding the development of irrigation infrastructure through the Green Belt Authority.
“Therefore, this responsibility is not only for government. Government has done it’s part now its up to the private sector to seize this opportunity”.
Reacting to the calls on Tuesday, Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) chief executive officer Chancellor Kaferapanjira challenged the GBA to come up with a workable plan on how it wants the private sector to participate.
He said that currently, with Covid-19, consumers are cautious on what farm produce to consume both locally and internationally, therefore, the GBA should be specific on the type of commercial irrigation ventures that the private sector should partake.
Kaferapanjira said: “Agriculture is important and everyone is talking about the Covid-19 pandemic threats ahead but from our angle, the biggest threat is that people will not be able to make money because of reduced buying power and loss of income.
“Even those who grow crops will not be able to recoup their investment because they will have no markets due to local and international restrictions.”
On his part, Farmers Union of Malawi president Frighton Njolomole said farmers are ready to work with the GBA to contribute to Covid-19 pandemic economic recovery and that they will be discussing such issues during their board meeting in coming days.
Agriculture is the main stay of the economy, contributing about 80 percent through farming, agri-business, processing and exports and employs the majority of the population as well as sustaining livelihoods.
Records from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security shows that out of a potential 407 862 hectares (ha) for irrigation, only 118 833 ha is being cultivated, representing 61 977ha for smallholder farmers and 56 856ha for estate farmers.