President Prof. Peter Mutharika Friday outlined various plans government is going to implement in the 2016/ 17 fiscal year with much emphasis on improving the agricultural sector which is the country’s economic pillar.
While delivering a State of National Address at Parliament Building in Lilongwe, Mutharika said among others, government will prioritize the irrigation system with the aim of boosting crop production and by that way reduce prolonged hunger crisis.
The President said Malawi as a country is blessed with adequate fresh water and irrigatable land but blamed lack of seriousness and failure to set out effective plans by the system to eradicate the problem.
He stressed that time has come for the country to stop relying on rain fed agriculture which posed a major threat for the country’s economic growth.
“Agriculture remains one of the key priorities for government because of its significance to our economy. However looking at the 2015/ 16 growing season, the year was badly affected by adverse weather conditions caused by the El Niño hen omen on which negatively affected crop production including maize the staple food.
“Maize production declined by 12.4% in the 2015/ 16 growing season. And as a result of this, government will therefore continue to place highest priority on the sector to ensure both national and house old food security as well as support agro industries,” the President explained.
He highlighted that government has since launched the US$2.4 billion Irrigation Master Plan and Investment Framework which will guide the expansion of the irrigation sub-sector by 116,000 hectares.
Some of the major projects under this framework includes; Shire Valley Irrigation, Bwanje Scheme expansion, Songwe River and the Green belt Initiative Schemes.
“We have completed construction of seven solar pump irrigation schemes covering an area of about 780 hectares under the Agriculture Infrastructure Support Project, and 150 hectares under the Climate Adaptation for Rural Livelihoods and Agriculture Project in Karonga, Neno, Chikhwawa and Nsanje.
“Furthermore, government has completed maintenance of old government irrigation schemes in Karonga , Nkhotakota and Machinga and over 400 hectares were developed for gravity fed irrigation in Blantyre, Thyolo and Phalombe districts,” Mutharika said emphasizing that his government will continue to also procure treadle pumps and develop dams and boreholes to reduce dependence on rain.
The President was optimistic that with the irrigation system in place, Malawi will no longer experience food shortage and ask for food assistance.
Apart from the irrigation, the President said government is further going to encourage crop diversification so that should one crop fail, people may find relief in others which have done better.
“We will from this year also start providing ADMARC and the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) with adequate resources to purchase maize and other crops in preparedness for unforeseen calamities
In addition, government has also invited interested private sector investors to undertake commercial irrigation farming in order to boost maize production beginning this year.
The programme will also involve medium -scale farmers and small holder farmers to either utilize their existing irrigation facilities or rent unutilized irrigable land.
Government has since guaranteed that it will buy all the maize produced through the National Food Reserve Agency.
British Ambassador to Malawi, Michael Nervin commended the President for identifying irrigation system saying it is the only way for the country to develop.
“What I wanted to hear is how the country is going to improve its agricultural sector, I am glad to hear the President say that government will intensify the irrigation system,” said Nervin in brief.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :