The Greenbelt Authority (GBA), a government entity that manages irrigation projects, has urged the private sector to partner government to implement irrigation projects under the public private partnership (PPP).
GBA chief executive officer Henri Njoloma said in an interview in Blantyre on Tuesday that the authority, established in 2015 as part of private sector reforms and falls under the Office of the President and Cabinet as an independent entity, is currently working on four major projects.
He said the projects that are on feasibility, inception and implementation levels include Illora-Nthola-Ngosi Irrigation Scheme in Karonga, Salima Sugar Project, a $90 million (about K66 billion) PPP venture in which government has 40 percent stake, Lower Shire Nchalo Irrigation Project, whose main crop is cotton and Greenhouse Project at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe.
Said Njoloma: “Any project that we do is supposed to have public and private sector investment. We conceptualise the project and the private sector has to bring in the money,” he said, observing that private sector is key in all the projects.
Over the years, the authority has on a number of occasions courted controversy, with the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture earlier calling for its dissolution, arguing that it has no capacity and operates as a political entity by reporting to OPC.
In the 2018/19 fiscal year, the authority was allocated K400 million for operations and salaries and a development budget of K1.5 billion.
But Njoloma parried away the accusations, saying the money Treasury allocates to the authority can never be enough, saying: “We only plan for that which we are given. We can’t have all the money that we need that is why we have private sector support.”
He said the authority’s accounts are audited every year, and their spending is based on outlined programmes.
“We understand that the aspirations of the people are that we need to do more, but we can only spend on the programmes that are funded,” said Njoloma.
Other irrigation projects the authority is working on include the aquaculture and Irish potato projects with the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and Malawi Defence Force (MDF).
The MPS has identified 1 000 hectares (ha) at Mbalangwe in Ntakataka, Dedza to grow crops and rear livestock while the MDF has identified 2 000ha at Gada Estate in Mchinji for irrigation.
In 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development launched the Irrigation Masterplan, to run up to 2035, which was touted to accelerate economic growth, reduce poverty, improve food security and increase agricultural exports.
The plan requires about $2.4 billion (K1.7 trillion) to be implemented.
Figures from the ministry show that the country has 408 000ha that could be irrigated, but only about 104 000 or 25 percent is under irrigation farming.