Communities in Nkhata Bay and Mangochi are demanding an explanation on the stalled $10 million (about K6.7 billion) irrigation project which is yet to be completed 13 years after the funds were disbursed.
In 2002, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development’s Small Farms Irrigation Project got a loan from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (Badea) to develop irrigation schemes at Nkopola in Mangochi and Lweya in Nkhata Bay.
Project activities under the first phase, whose objective was to improve food security of 4 000 households, were scheduled to end in 2008 by developing 1 600 hectares.
But according to The Nation of October 14 2015, the project, which is rocked with several technical hitches, is yet to complete.
But during an interface meeting Catholic Development Commission of Malawi (Cadecom) of Mzuzu Diocese organised in Nkhata Bay on Saturday, locals wanted government to explain why the project has stalled.
Malanda area development committee (ADC) chairperson Spencer Khuni said the project is long overdue such that people have lost trust in government.
“Government says the first phase of the project is complete and they want to start the second phase. But on the ground, the project is incomplete and of sub-standard quality. We are wondering as to how the money was used,” he said.
Khuni said the locals have been searching for answers from the Nkhata Bay District Council, but to no avail.
Nkhata Bay district agriculture development officer Edison Ngoma said the idle project has suffered yet another setback as its transformer worth K7 million was hit by lightning a week ago.
He said even if the transformer is replaced, it would be a liability for farmers to pay huge bills in pumping water from the lower part of Lweya River instead of utilising gravity by pumping water from the upland.
In an earlier interview, Department of Irrigation and Water Development spokesperson Mercy Jalazi said government has re-engaged Badea for more funding as the initial funds were not sufficient.
“During the course of implementation, it was realised that the allocated funds could only be sufficient for the construction of the pumping stations for the entire 1 600 hectares. Government, therefore, re-engaged Badea to borrow more to develop the remaining 817 hectares,” she said.
Jalazi dismissed suggestions that sub-standard materials were used. She said most of the challenges were as a result of corrosion, budgetary shortfalls, staff turn-over and delay in electricity connection, among others. n