The African Water Facility (AWF) has offered a €1.8 million (R32 million) grant to the Malawi government to help prepare a project designed to expand irrigated agriculture in the Lower Shire Valley.The project is expected to help overcome the adverse effect of prolonged dry spells and frequent flooding to improve and spread agricultural production. It will also create employment opportunities through the establishment of small holding farming ventures and professionally operated irrigation services. The project will benefit more than 200,000 people in the surrounding area, according to the promoters.
Akissa Bahri, AWF coordinator, says the government has long wanted to develop agriculture in the valley but was hampered by a number of challenges. “In coordination with the World Bank, we are bringing our support to address these issues, namely by assessing outstanding technical issues and supporting the government in mobilising finance. These studies will help define
win-win ventures between smallholders and the private sector, so that this project can be economically sustainable and provide more benefits and jobs to local populations.”
The Lower Shire Valley is one of the most fertile areas of Malawi, with rich deep soils. It also has irrigation potential.
The government’s plan is to develop this potential within the administrative districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje in various phases to cover a total of 42,500ha. It plans to extract water from the river and convey it to the irrigable area through open canals.
The estimated total cost of the project preparation activities is €5.3 million (R94 million), of which €1.8 million (R32 million) is covered by the AWF, €3.4 million (R60 million) by the World Bank, and €73,000 (R1 million) by government. The grant will be specifically used to finance a feasibility study and preparatory activities to mobilise financing for the first phase of the irrigation plan, which will cover 21,000ha of land, which could cost up to €231 million (R4 billion).
Malawi depends largely on rain-fed agriculture to achieve food security and socio-economic growth. The Malawi government places high priority on irrigation development to increase crop productivity and production for food security for both domestic and export markets.
The overall project will also explore a public-private partnership arrangement to mobilise private financing to cover part
of the investment costs involved for the inlet and feeder canals.
– The African Water Facility: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.africanwaterfacility.org