Government is determined to address chronic food and nutrition problems in Balaka.

Balaka, a perennial host to natural calamities, especially drought, is one of the districts, which are badly hit by hunger due to the nature of weather pattern the area experiences.

This is why, after sensing danger of starvation by many farmers, the Malawi Government decided to initiate a flagship irrigation project, which can help the district to feed itself and this is Utale Irrigation Scheme.

Speaking when he visited the scheme, the Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe said he was much impressed with the work progress.

Lowe said what is happening is in line with the government plan over implementation of Irrigation Master Plan which encourages the use of irrigation system of farming.

He said the contractor Sawa Group is doing a good job and he hopes that the contractor will live by the promise.

Assistant Irrigation Engineer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Amos Nambazo, said the scheme comprises 220 hectares of land, according to Irrigation Master Plan and Investment Framework (IMPIF), the land has the potential of being used for irrigation purposes.

Utale Irrigation Scheme, registered as Chigumukire Water Users Association under Utale Extension Planning Area, is in Sub-Traditional Authority Chakanza in Balaka West Constituency.

The scheme has a potential of accommodating more than 1,000 farmers from Group Village Heads Ngalawesa, Chambuluka and Mtaja.

Currently, there are 643 registered interested farmers (375 women, 268 men).

Out of these, 342 farmers (203 females and 139 males) are customary right land holders who have registered as direct beneficiaries.

On organisational status, the organisation structure consists of executive committee; Water, Operations, Maintenance, Finance, Block and tertiary committees who have been trained and capacitated with various skills and knowledge depending on their responsibilities in the line of duty.

The scheme has been registered as Chigumukire WUA and it has already acquired the water right from National Water Resources Authority as well.

Utale works comprises construction of secondary canal networks; supplying and installation of pipeline and hydrants; supplying and installation of two rising mains; construction of two balancing reservoirs; construction of canal crossing bridges; construction of pump station; supplying and installation of solar equipment.

According to the Assistant engineer, currently, progress of first phase, 122ha, which is due for irrigation, has remained with finishing of the pump house to achieve partial utilization expected before the first week of September, 2021.

“Currently, farmers are preparing their land for cultivation as it is expected that the contractor will finish the first phase by first week of September and that farmers will be able to utilize the 122ha of first phase. All measures related to Environmental and social safeguards are also being upheld in conformity with the environmental and social impact report and the Contractors ESMPs. There are also plans underway to connect the farmers with various market systems under the SHEP concept to guarantee the viability and marketability of their project,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Minister has directed the contractor to keep the work at the overall bill of workplan. He said any delay can directly affect everything.

He said the project has the potential to change Balaka economically.

The project is being implemented with supp

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