Malawi halt MK70 bn green belt project in Nkhotakota

The Malawi Government has stopped the implementation of an African Development Bank funded project meant to boost sugar cane farming in Nkhotakota District following tensions which led to sporadic riots and violence.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security made the announcement this week through Nkhotakota District Assembly officials during a meeting held at the Assembly’s offices.

The villagers were annoyed at government’s decision to introduce sugarcane plantations in the areas of Group Village Headmen Mwazanduwa, Mgwinthi, and Kada covering an area of about 1200 hectares of land along Lake Malawi.

On the 13thJanuary 2013, the protesting villagers went on rampage and closed the M5 road before they demolished three houses and a Police vehicle, Police confirmed.

Makalani: They demolished the houses
Makalani: They demolished the houses

Nkhunga Police Station Public Relations Officer Sergeant Labani Makalani said one of demolished house was for Village Headman Kanthumdende and the other one belongs to Davie Kamanga, who is Chairperson for Kanyenda Community Policing Forum (CPF).

“It took the effort of the Police to quell the tension in the area after a protracted battle. In the process, a Police vehicle belonging to Nkhunga Police Station registration number MP 2003 had its two side glasses smashed,” Makalani said.

An official from Nkhotakota District Assembly identified as Mr. Zimba convened a meeting on behalf of the District Commissioner involving Traditional Leaders from Group Village Headman Mgwinthi where the tensions were emanating from.

Zimba told the villagers that government had considered their concerns and it has decided to stop the project in the area of GVH Mgwinthi alone.

He then appealed to the villagers not to interfere with the project implementation in the areas of village headmen Mwazanduwa, and Kada.

In August 2012 the Malawi government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security started implementing the MK70 billion sugarcane plantation in the area of Traditional Authority Kanyenda but has rescinded its decision.

The Malawi government had wanted to move the people leaving in the targeted areas after properly compensating them and then introduce a robust pivot irrigation system for the sugar cane plantations.

But some villagers within the targeted areas disagreed with government opting to retain their land which they use to grow cassava (their staple food), tomatoes, potatoes, ground nuts and rice arguing they get more money from these crops than the proposed sugar cane.

They also felt that similar sugarcane plantations which government had helped initiate in the district has not benefited locals despite them surrendering their land.

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