A community-led initiative to engage in irrigation farming in some parts of Phalombe has uplifted the welfare of the people in the area, improved food security at household level and enhanced their income levels.
Under Kalekunalibe Irrigation Scheme, the residents have established a number of schemes in which they are growing maize, groundnuts, pigeon peas and vegetables, among others.
“We have indeed kissed hunger goodbye. We no longer worry about where to get food for the next day because we know we have it,” recounts Blessing Kamwala, secretary for Malema Irrigation Scheme.
The scheme started in 2004, growing crops on a hectare piece of land, but now has increased the hectarage to eight. It has 18 members.
Kamwala said all the farmers in the group have positive stories to tell.
“Farmers are now happy, they are excited to be engaged in farming. Most of the members have roofed their houses with iron sheets, have bought bicycles and are sending their children to school using the money realised from the sale of their farm produce,” he said.
In the group, each farmer realises at least 10 bags of maize.
Agreeing with his colleague, secretary for Likhatcha Irrigation Scheme, Samuel Thawani, said: “We no longer experience situations when people go to bed without something to eat. Most of the people here are also economically empowered,” he said.
The group, which started in 2010, has 106 farmers, majority of them being women working on a 21-hactare piece of land.
Since irrigation is a capital intensive project, the groups have also established a village bank to ensure that they have a steady source of money, which is used to buy irrigation equipment and repair damaged pipes and channels.
The farmers took the opportunity to express how irrigation farming has changed their lives during the launch of the new season in Phalombe.
Every year, the district intensifies irrigation farming to beat hunger and instill in the people the spirit of self-reliance.
The districtâ€™s irrigation officer, Limbani Mzembe, said since the farmers started this type of farming, their lives have improved.
“This has always been our desire to ensure that people in the district are food secure. Indeed, the people have seen their welfare improving year after year,” he said.
Mzembe said farmers harvest twice a year which ensures that they have food throughout the year and sell some.
Phalombe district commissioner Atanazio Tembo said irrigation farming has proved to be one of the critical ways to end the cycle of food insecurity in Malawi.
He said this is a clear example of how an organised community can end hunger in Malawi.
Malawi is an agro-based economy with agriculture contributing more than 25 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP). Over the years, Malawiâ€™s economic growth has been propelled by the agriculture sector.
Between 2005 and 2010, the countryâ€™s economy grew on average by seven percent largely because of the success of the agriculture sector thanks to the farm input subsidy programme (Fisp) in which more than one million poor Malawians receive a coupon with which they use to buy a 50 kilogramme bag of fertiliser at K500 and other seeds.
Due to the Fisp, Malawi has over the past six years been registering maize surplus.
Agriculture experts have long argued that if Malawi intensifies irrigation farming, food insecurity will be a thing of the past.