Abida Mia revives hope for small holder irrigation scheme farmers

“There is need for every citizen in the country to take part in the development agenda.”

The Government of Malawi is highly committed to invest in the Greenbelt Initiative (GBI) in a bid to end the recurrent hunger and transform the country’s ailing economy, Lands deputy minister, Abida Mia has said.

Lower Shire firebrand political giant and philanthropist, Abida Mia, who is also a Parliamentarian for Chikwawa-Nkombedzi constituency said President Lazarus Chakwera and the Tonse Alliance administration aims to achieve and sustain an agricultural revolution, which will provide a sound footing for sustained economic growth and development in the country.

Mia, who is dubbed the iron lady, made the remarks Monday when she met local farmers at Nyamithambo irrigation scheme in the area of Senior Chief Ngabu in Chikwawa district as she resuscitated hope of smallholder irrigation farmers in her constituency by assuring them of government’s commitment in prioritizing irrigation farming, as solution to end hunger and food shortage.

Mia said: “The Government is highly committed to revolutionise the agriculture sector in the country to ensure that local farmers and the people are economically stable.

“President Chakwera is on a mission to transform every Malawian’s life through sound economic policies but for that to happen, there is need for every citizen in the country to take part in the development agenda.”

On the grind: Mia visiting small holder irrigation scheme farmers

Mia, who was accompanied by Member of Parliament for Chikwawa South, Iryias Karim, emphasized that the Tonse Alliance led government under the leadership of president Chakwera and his vice, Saulos Chilima Malawi will be a different story in a few years to come.

“It is time we change our story from that of a struggling nation to one of the most successful and progressive countries in the world. It is time to take off the tag that Malawi is an impoverished country by starting to produce more for ourselves and be able to export some of our products to the rest of the world,” said the Lands deputy minister, adding;

“Malawi is endowed with natural resources and fertile lands, which if put to good use, we will be able to yield big harvests every year but to do so we have to move with the times and use modern technological farming and this is what the government is trying to achieve.”

‘Zero hunger’

Mia assured the local irrigation farmers in Chikwawa-Nkombedzi and across the country of government support to ensure that there is zero hunger in a few years to come saying, already with the success of the newly launched flagship hunger-fighting agenda, the Agriculture Input Programme (AIP) Malawi is heading in a right direction.

“We all want our families to have enough food and to eat what is safe and nutritious and we can only achieve that if we work hard and follow what the experts tells us to do. A world with zero hunger can positively impact our economies, health, education, equality and social development.

Speaking earlier during her visit to Mwananjobvu Irrigation Scheme in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Ngowe under Chikwawa South Constituency, Mia said, it was sad to note that operations of smallholder farmers in the area halted due to numerous challenges that they have and are still facing.

“It is very sad that due to several factors many of you has had to stop your operations as regards farming, but I can assure you that I will take the matter to Parliament as the ministry of Agriculture to seek for help so that you are back to your operations as soon as possible,” said Mia.

However, Mia expressed concern upon hearing that the operations at the schemes had stalled when irrigation farming has potential enabling farmers to realize at least three harvests in a year.

“With three harvests per annum, there could never be a talk of hunger or food shortage in this area and indeed in the whole country.”

In his address, legislator for the area, Iryias Karim thanked Abida Mia for her renewing hope for irrigation farmers in his catchment area and surrounding areas.

Nyasa Times learnt during the visit to the two irrigation schemes that among the main challenges that led to a complete stalemate of operations was due to withdrawal of funding that completely choked the implementation of the projects.

Petro Bvumbwe, a local farmer, who is also a secretary for Nyamithambo Greenbelt Association, said: “We are, as a matter of urgency, requesting the government to take action on the matter.”

‘No expropriation’

During the visit, the vibrant deputy minister toured irrigation pumping equipment and facility which are no longer being utilised while over 20,000 hectares of land remain idle since 2019 when the project could no longer be funded.

The Greenbelt Initiative aims at accomplishing and nurturing agricultural reforms with a view to create a viable economic growth without being rains dependent.

Furthermore, the initiative seeks to make Malawi independent of rain-fed agriculture and subsequently protect the gains in food security, reduce vulnerability to drought and to boost production by irrigating a million hectares of land in a swathe lying within 20 kilometres of the country’s three lakes and 13 perennial rivers.

Irrigation agriculture is presently practiced on just a third of the one million hectares of land earmarked for the green belt programme.

The Lake Malawi-Shire River stretch is the most important in the project- a section of the East African Rift Valley (ARV), the watercourse extends a thousand kilometres from the head to the toes of Malawi – from the northernmost point to the southernmost one.

Apart from identifying new sites for irrigation, development of the belt will also include restoring infrastructure that has fallen into disuse.

In February 2009, government invited bids from construction companies to establish, rehabilitate and manage 12 irrigation schemes as part of the programme.

But what about issues of land, probably one of the most delicate factors in the implementation of the programme?

However, much of the land in the designated belt is customary but the deputy minister for Lands, Mia in a separate interview with Nyasa Times says government will not expropriate land from people.

“Our interest is particularly on small scale farmers. We will be grouping them, and we believe that will help to deal with the problem of land holding through creation of ownership of the irrigations schemes,” explains Mia.

The national irrigation policy says that management of the schemes will be the full responsibility of the beneficiaries through their legally constituted local farmer organizations.

Through their organisations, the farmers will be encouraged to apply for a lease of the customary land.

Alternatively, the farmers may apply to register the land as private land owned by a group of farmers, says the irrigation bill.

During his visits to Brazil and the U.S. in September 2009, president Bingu wa Mutharika invited foreign investors to come to Malawi to participate in the implementation of the project.

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Martin Luther Jnr
Martin Luther Jnr
11 months ago

Abida does it again! Shows how MPs should be contributing to develop. The lady is Abida Moto Moto.

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