People of Chikwawa and Nsanje districts face mixed fortunes as about 295 households risk losing their land and assets to pave the way for an irrigation scheme to benefit about 100 000 families.
A project brief for the Shire Valley Irrigation Project (SVIP) shows that about 100 000 households in Chikwawa and Nsanje will benefit from the resettlement policy framework (RPF) through increased agricultural productivity and profitability by establishing market-linked smallholder farming ventures.
The brief also indicates that 295 households—which translates to nearly 1 500 people based on Malawi’s average of five people per household—will be sacrificial lambs as they are expected to lose land and personal assets.
Dated April 17 2016, the draft report says government is yet to identify a place to relocate the 295 households as studies are still underway.
The scheme will put 42 500 hectares (ha) under irrigation.
In an interview yesterday, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development director of irrigation Geoffrey Mmamba confirmed the resettlement plan and that about K432 billion ($640 million) has been pumped into the project.
He said: “We are still working out how the 295 will be relocated as you will appreciate this is a draft report. We want the least amount of people possible to be moved.”
Mmamba said the first phase will move from Kapichira to Mwanza River and the second phase will move from Mwanza River to Bangula.
Further reads the report: “An estimated 720 hectares of land will be acquired for the main canals and about 295 households will be affected in both phases. In this report, a detailed investigation of the quantities has only been carried out for phase one, where the affected area is estimated at 375 hectares and 121 houses.
“Some of these may be assimilated within the communities depending on the nature of their impact. However, others will have to be resettled elsewhere. In addition, about 198 ha will be required for construction purposes in phase one.”
The draft report highlights that the valuation of land and assets for compensations are based on various pieces of legislations.
Chikwawa district commissioner Bester Mandele said in an interview last evening all stakeholders involved are looking forward to the start of the project. He said the affected people will be duly compensated.
He said: “The lower part of this country faces floods and drought time and time again and the Shire Valley Irrigation Project will help solve these problems. In addition, the project will also offer solutions and the Lower Shire can be the national food basket for whole Malawi.”
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, with assistance from the African Development Bank (AfDB) and World Bank, financed studies to produce a bankable project proposal.
In recent years, Malawi has come under fire for going about with a begging bowl when it is endowed with water bodies it can use to scale up irrigation farming.
This year, for example, at least 2.8 million people are starving due to low yields resulting from drought and floods.