Masauko Radson is a youthful farmer in Mwinimudzi Village outside Lilongwe City. He grows potatoes and soya beans for sale at Mitundu Trading Centre.
However, it is tough for farmers in his area to transport farm inputs and produce to places where they are needed.
Radson’s community hopes that a 15-kilometre tarmac road being constructed between Mitundu and Kambanizinthe will ease access to markets.
“Once it is completed, it will be easier to transport our produce to markets. Mitundu is a big market, but it isn’t easy to take our goods there,” he said.
The poor roads get worse when it rains. It becomes muddy and slippery.
“When it rains, the road becomes impassable for bicycles loaded with goods,” he says.
Joel Chakhumbira, from Suzi Village, says the road upgrade is a huge relief.
“We often get to the market late because of transport problems in the absence of good roads,” he says.
The new road is part of the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach (Aswap) project underway in the country’s 12 districts, including Lilongwe.
Government is improving road networks, especially in rural areas where 84 percent of the country’s population lives.
Nearly 1 200 kilometres of rural roads are expected to be rehabilitated nationwide through Aswap. Out of this, 75 kilometres will be tarmac estimated at K12.1 billion and 1 116km earth roads worth K4.3 billion.
The brains behind the programme envisages this improving access to basic services, including markets.
“Aswap has helped reduce the perennial losses which the farmers suffer between the time they harvest their produce and the time they take it either home or to the markets. Losses of this nature have been drastically reduced, thereby giving the farmer more profit for his labour, and in turn improving their livelihoods,” says Roads Authority spokesperson Portia Kajanga.
Lilongwe district commissioner Lawford Palani says at Mitundu, eight kilometres will be upgraded to bitumen while seven kilometres will be reshaped and gravelled to ease transport woes faced by the farming community.
He explains: “The tarmac road from the city to the rural area ended at Mitundu. Beyond the trading centre, people had transportation problems when it came to accessing health services, schools and markets.
“With the road upgraded, they will easily transport their patients to the hospital and their goods to the markets.”
Bintony Kutsaira, the area’s member of Parliament, wants the road extended to Mlare via Khomani and Mitundu Health Centre.
“People die on the road to the hospital between Mlare and Mitundu. So, we need a tarmac road that goes all the way to Mlare. We need a tarmac road even in Nyamazani. We also need to fix bad bridges on Nanjiri and Chituwi rivers,” he says.
He reckons the road taking shape will be a life-line for people of Mitundu, Chingala, Masula and the western side of the capital, Lilongwe.
“Mitundu is an agricultural area and this road will help people transport their agricultural produce to the trading centre, to town and to other areas without any difficulties. They have had huge transportation problems. The bad road beyond Mitundu gets worse during the rainy season,” he says.
Apart from the ease of transportation, the 15km road construction works also employ members of local communities.
This is part of the 51.6 -kilometre stretch to be rehabilitated in Lilongwe West Agriculture District. Beatrice Neri, European Union team leader responsible for sustainable agriculture, says Aswap is not just about roads, but improving access to economic and social resources by the rural population, especially smallholder farmers