Minister of Agriculture Robin Lowe says his ministry will put extra effort into extension services and irrigation because government’s focus is to ensure that there is food security at both household and national levels.
Speaking in Nsanje on Wednesday when he visited the Shire Valley Agriculture Development Division (ADD) and other initiatives being implemented under the Agriculture Commercialisation Project, the minister said Malawi has potential to do better.
He said: “There is heavy investment in irrigation by government and various stakeholders, but there is need to boost agricultural extension for the benefit of all farmers and the attainment of government’s broad policy objectives.”
Lowe encouraged smallholder farmers to use solar irrigation, saying relying on grid electricity is costly as they have to deal with monthly electricity bills.
On his part, Shire Valley ADD programme manager Taurayi Mlewah said only 20 032 farming households lack food this season compared to 33 137 last season in his division.
However, he said the food situation is worse in Nsanje District where 16 percent of the farming households are food insecure.
The ADD comprises two districts, namely Nsanje and Chikwawa and it has a total area of 684 000 hectares out of which 313 215 hectares is cultivable. According to Mlewah, 40 000 hectares of the cultivable land has potential for irrigation farming.
During the tour, Lowe, who was accompanied by Deputy Minister Agness Nkusa Nkhoma, visited Nkhate, Chilengo and Tiyanjane irrigation schemes, Kasinthula Research Station fish farm and Yadidi Nyama Cooperative.
In an interview, MacPharlen Ben, one of the farmers under Tiyanjane Irrigation Scheme where farmers grow onions under a cooperative, said the farming business has enabled him to build a modern house for his family and open a savings bank account.