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One Million Malawians to Benefit from Irrigation Schemes

March 18, 2011

Malawi and the World Bank Sign $12.7million Additional Financing Agreement

LILONGWE, March 18, 2011 – Rehabilitation of Malawi’s four largest irrigation schemes is scheduled to be completed by June 2012 with additional financing of US$12.7 million from the World Bank. When completed, these large schemes together with several smaller ones will benefit about 197,000 farming households in 11 of Malawi’s 28 districts.

The $12.7million financing is additional to US$40million that the Bank provided to Malawi in 2005 through the Irrigation, Rural Livelihoods and Development project (IRLADP) whose aim is to improve agricultural productivity and incomes through irrigation development. The large schemes totaling 1,797ha and funded by Government are: Muona in Nsanje, Likangala in Zomba, Nkhate in Chikhwawa, and Limphasa in Nkhata Bay, while the other districts benefitting with smaller schemes are Chitipa and Rumphi in the north, Lilongwe, Dedza and Salima in the centre, and Phalombe and Blantyre in the south.

“So far over 1500 hectares of land are already being irrigated through the completed small schemes. When all are completed, we expect 3200 hectares of land to be irrigated. This will significantly help ensure food self sufficiency at household level,” said Sandra Bloemenkamp, the World Bank’s Country Manager for Malawi. Speaking at the signing of the financing agreement, Ms. Bloemenkamp said the Bank is keen to help Malawi consolidate and sustain the achievements it is making in food security.

Cosigning the financing agreement, Malawi’s Minister of Finance Honourable Ken Kandodo said Government requested for this additional financing to cover cost overruns in the rehabilitation of these main schemes and development of other smaller schemes. He added that some of the funds will be used to scale-up the provision of the technical and managerial capacity, and market access support required for sustainable small-scale irrigation development in the country.

Malawi’s crop production continues to be influenced by dependence on rain-fed farming, given the low levels of irrigation development. “With the changing weather patterns and high incidences of drought in our region, there is need to invest heavily in irrigation farming so that our people are cushioned against the risk of drought,” said Hon. Kandodo.

At present, total formal or semi-formal irrigated area in Malawi is 90,000 ha against a potential area of up to 700,000 ha. The country has previously faced extended periods of dry spells which significantly affect crop production. Major droughts have occurred in 1991/92, 1993/94, floods in 1997/98 and 2000/01, and drought again in 2004/05 and intermittent pro-longed dry spells in 2009/10. Government is therefore investing in irrigation development which has the potential to improve yields and provide at least two harvests per ha to the small farmers in a given year.

Some smallholder farmers are already benefitting from mini-scale irrigation schemes supported by IRLADP. “Water is now better available during the dry season which is enabling me grow cabbages for sale. My profits are good and I now need to learn what other crops to diversify to and reduce wastage due to pesticides,” says Mr. Chipiliro Lingson, a member of Kapeni Irrigation Scheme in Lilongwe District. The Kapeni Scheme irrigates 4ha of land and has 49 members.

Under IRLAD, the farmers are trained to manage their water resources and schemes through Water User Associations. They also learn cropping issues to help them increase productivity by at least 50 percent while diversifying crop mix. They also work on improving rural infrastructure and marketing assets such as warehouses.

Media Contacts
In Lilongwe
Zeria Banda
Tel : (+265-1) 770 611