Senior Irrigation Engineer for Nsanje, Edward Mkandawire has said efforts to promote irrigation farming in the district are being frustrated by floods which wash away the irrigation schemes almost every year.
Mkandawire told Malawi News Agency (MANA) Thursday in an interview that the department of irrigation in the district is currently promoting gravity fed and solar powered irrigation technologies for communities to achieve sustainable food security and income, but the efforts are watered down by floods.
He has since urged government and development partners to consider providing financial and technical assistance to construct flood protection bunds to minimize incidences of schemes being washed away by floods.
“40 percent of irrigation facilities in the district get washed away and silted up when floods hit the district. This happens because the schemes have no embankment around them to protect them against the floods,” he said.
He added: “This is a worrisome situation considering that after investing a lot in irrigation farming, farmers end up losing as the schemes are damaged by floods; this leaves farmers vulnerable to food insecurity.”
For example, Mkandawire cited Masenjere gravity fed irrigation scheme in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Mlolo which he said is a source of livelihoods to 400 farming families as one that requires flood protection bunds.
The irrigation expert said the district has more shallow based irrigation facilities and that most of them are established along Elephant and Ndindi marshes noting that such schemes cost farmers a lot of money as almost every year they reconstruct them when they get damaged by floods.
Nsanje North Member of Parliament, Esther Mcheka Chilenje said besides protecting the schemes against strong floods, protection bunds provide safeguards to livestock and human lives in particular against the floods.
“Construction of flood protection bunds around irrigation schemes can help sustain the schemes and save agricultural land, livestock and humans against flood hazards.
There is great need for government to invest in this if we are to achieve food security,” said Chilenje who is also First Deputy Speaker of the Malawi National Assembly.
Mcheka however, urged farmers not to get discouraged by the floods; but rather continue working hard in the fields to harvest more to avert hunger.
Some of the crops grown at Masenjere irrigation scheme include maize, rice and sweet potatoes. According to Mkandawire, Nsanje, which is a flood prone district, boasts of about 67 functional irrigation schemes.
Recently the Minister of Irrigation and Water Development, Joseph Mwanamvekha told parliament that government is promoting small-scale irrigation technologies to ensure food security in the country.