Churches Action in Relief and Development (Card) has advised government to invest in solar-powered irrigation, saying continued lowering of water levels in rivers threatens irrigation farming.
Seven board members of Card said this recently after touring three irrigation schemes in Nsanje. Two of the schemes are solar-powered.
Card board chairperson Hopeson Jailosi said cheap irrigation systems are collapsing.
“It is time to define our priority and invest in such. From our assessment, solar powered irrigation is viable only that its success rests in prioritisation and heavy investment. The water table continues to fall and rivers and wells are drying up. We should think solar power to tap water from deep ground and long distances,” he said.
The tour exposed the challenges some farmers are facing to access water for irrigation due to drying up of rivers.
It also revealed that solar-powered irrigation is providing the much-needed relief to the challenge.
For instance, at Makhokwe Irrigation Scheme, about 10 hectares is not being utilised because most sources of water have dried up and smallholder farmers are digging deep wells to irrigate their crops.
One of the farmers, Davison John, who is also chairperson of the scheme which lies along the Ndindi Marsh, said the future of the scheme is uncertain.
Unlike at Makhokwe, farmers at Makoka and Tiyanjane solar-powered irrigation schemes are enjoying two to three harvests per year.
Tiyanjane Scheme chairperson Martin Faifi said throughout the years, the scheme, founded in 2012, has had enough water for irrigation and they yield bumper harvests.
Card executive director Melton Luhanga said they prioritised solar-powered irrigation after observing that river and stream waters are becoming unreliable due to climate change. n