* Project Coordinator Dr. Stanley Khaila reported that the project is making very good progress
* At the moment, a climate resilient cofferdam is being constructed which is at 146m above the sea level
* The target is to increase it to 148m above the sea level
By Duncan Mlanjira
Cumulatively, 24,304 members of 12,055 men and 12,249 women have been trained on agricultural cooperative member education on commercial farming by Shire Valley Transformation Programme as construction of the irrigation project is still in progress.
This was put across to Minister of Agriculture, Sam Kawale on Tuesday when he toured the landmark project — which is touted as the biggest and impressive in the whole of the sub-Saharan Africa Region as it targets to irrigate a net area of 43,370 hectares of land owned by smallholder farmers.
Project Coordinator, Dr. Stanley Khaila appraised Kawale on his first tour of the Programme since he was appointed Minister in October last year that 223,000 farmers — representing 48,400 households — will benefit from the massive irrigation; thus they needed to be trained in commercial farming ahead of its completion.
Khaila emphasized that the programme is fully aligned with MW2063 national vision of an ‘Exclusively Wealthy and Self-Reliant Nation’ under Pillar 1 of Agriculture Productivity and Commercialisation — whose objective is “to have an optimally productive and commercialised agriculture sector”.
Having been delayed following the destruction of the intake and other structures at Kapichira Dam, which got washed away by Cyclone Ana-induced floods in January last year, Khaila said “the project is making very good progress”.
At the moment, Khaila announced that a climate resilient cofferdam is being constructed which is at 146m above the sea level and the target is to increase it to 148m.
He also told the Minister that climate resilient intake designs are ready and under review to be finalised at the end of this month while all other structures which were contracted to Condril construction company have been completed.
The construction of canal lining of the Main Canal I and II by contractor Synohydro — which is over 46km stretching along Lengwe National Park — was also reported as making very good progress and Khaila applauded the Minister for his visit, saying it was important as he has given them “the guidance to reach the desired outcome of the project”.
On his part, Minister Kawale greatly encouraged all stakeholders involved in the landmark programme — of several contractors, consultants, government Ministries, Departments and Agencies — saying they all are making history as the irrigation project will benefit generations to come.
After the tour of the construction of the cofferdam and Main Canal I & II, the Minister visited Mlambe Cooperative, whose leadership said, while they were skeptical at first whether the programme was beneficial, they were now eagerly awaiting its completion.
Chairperson of the cooperative, Mr. Chiutsi proudly told Kawale that they have over the years been challenged with low crop productivity because of unpredictable weather patterns in recent years.
He said they started mobilising themselves in 2019 as a cooperative and having been trained in all aspects of commercial farming in all aspects by the Shire Valley Transformation Programme and other development stakeholders — that include being registered by Registrar of Cooperatives — they were good to go.
The Minister encouraged the Mlambe Cooperative members that they should take pride that they are the first to utilise the landmark project, which is the pride of Malawi.
He assured them that the delays are not man-made but because of forces of nature which is coming due to climate change following the continued degradation of the environment — and thus encouraged them to keep replacing trees they cut for their energy use.
He also announced that the agricultural inputs programme (AIP) has been changed into four parts — first for people living with disability, who shall be given relief cash transfers.
Those without any land, who benefited from the agricultural inputs of subsidized fertilizers but ended up selling the coupons, shall then be afforded employment through public works programme while commercial farmers in cooperatives shall be assisted to through grants being facilitated by Agriculture Commercialization (AGCOM) to boost their agricultural businesses.
He also assured the cooperative members that through the Shire Valley Transformation Programme, they shall assist towards developing the economy of the country’s through food security and that government shall make sure it secured structured markets for produce exports.
“Your enthusiasm in anticipation for the completion of this project has energized us at the Ministry to make sure that you should start benefiting from it as soon as possible and I must assure you that we are all working around the clock to have this completed in good time,” he said.