Out of the 1500 hectares of potential irrigation land in use, 20,000 farmers in Phalombe who were hardest hit by this year’s dry spell that affected most parts of the country, are expected to harvest a minimum of 10 bags each.
For these Phalombe irrigation scheme members the produce they expect from the irrigation farming means they are food secure and economically better-off despite the general outlook of 2015-2016 being a bad agricultural year.
The Phalombe District Agricultural Development Officer (DADO), Osmund Chapotoka said through irrigation, the district expects to realize a relatively good amount of maize to top up the little realized through the rain fed agriculture noting that should keep families food secure throughout the year.
Chairperson of Thembe Irrigation Scheme in the district, John Allan said people in the area discovered that they risk incurring loses in rain fed agriculture either due to too heavy rains which leave the land flooded and water logged or dry spells hence their exploration in irrigation.
“For the past years, we have suffered food shortage in this area and that has driven us to seriously venture into irrigation farming which is proving a workable formula,” explained Allan.
Allan added that the scheme’s leadership together with the traditional leaders have advised farmers operating at the scheme not to sell the fresh maize to vendors but rather harvest it dry for household consumption.
“Realizing the food shortage implications that we have experienced recently, no farmer is going to sell the irrigated maize fresh and that I can assure you,” emphasized Allan.
As one way of ensuring that farmers refrain from selling fresh maize, farmers are encouraged to plant some cash crops such as vegetables and Irish potatoes which they sell fresh for steady cash upkeep.
Traditional Authority (T/A) Nkhulambe said she can confidently say the people in her area are safe from hunger thanks to irrigation farming.
“Farmers are now wiser than before and they are not selling off their produce to uncertified farmers for they have learnt lessons through the implications such practices bring among people,” said Nkhulambe.
The Chief Irrigation Officer for Blantyre ADD, Benson Sumani assured the farmers that government, through his department will provide the necessary support to farmers in the area regarding irrigation.
Sumani also noted that working in the area is proving easy as the people themselves are keen about finding solutions to their problems.
Phalombe District commissioner, Harry Phiri encouraged the farmers not to sell off cheaply their hard earned produce to uncertified farmers for the area to enjoy the food security that is most likely going to be there by the look of the health looking maize crop in the irrigated fields.
“Phalombe is perfectly positioned for irrigation with major rivers originating from Mulanje and Michesi Mountains feeding the several gravity fed irrigation schemes in the area and the people are hard working and surely they need not to starve,” explained Phiri.
The irrigation farming in Phalombe is supported by various projects such as the Malawi Flood Recovery Project (MFRP) and the Agriculture Infrastructure Support Project (AISP) which are working towards the establishment and revamping of old irrigation schemes in an effort to improving irrigation farming in the country in order to attain food security and economic stability among all.
For the importance attached to irrigation farming, government officially launched the irrigation season two weeks ago in Ntchisi marking the transition from rain season agriculture season to winter cropping and for the southern region the launch was done on Wednesday in Phalombe one of the leading districts in as far as irrigation is concerned.