BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)-The Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe has challenged authorities implementing the Shire Valley Transformation Programme (SVTP) to ensure that intended beneficiaries of the project start utilising the water once the intake is completed and some parts of the canal have been finished instead of waiting for the finalisation of the entire project.
The Minister made the call when he inspected progress of the multi billion Kwacha project.
The Minister said Government is still making consultations with smallholder farmers and other offtakers who will utilise the water. Through the project, smallholder farmers in Chikwawa and Nsanje districts will practice commercial farming on large scale.
“The idea is that at some point as a country we should be able to start utilising the water from the scheme. We shouldn’t wait until the whole canal is completed. Farmers should be able to utilise the water. As government, the early stages of utilisation will serve as lessons to be rolled out to the rest of the farms as construction continues.
“This is why government is engaging all project stakeholders to prepare them for utilisation of the scheme. We will draw key lessons from few fields who will cultivate”, said Minister Lowe.
On his part, Coordinator for the Shire Valley Transformation project, Dr. Stanley Chakhumbila Khaira said they have already demarcated and adjudicated 23 000 pieces of small holder farmers land which is about 13 000 hectares in readiness for land consolidation into large, smallholder commercial owned farms.
It is expected that farmers will start utilising the water from the scheme during the last quarter of 2023.
Considered as one of the biggest irrigation projects in southern Africa, the Shire Valley Transformation Programme started in 2018 and has a time frame of 14 years as it expected to finish in 2031.
When the project is concluded it is expected to transform smallholder subsistence agriculture into commercial for about 223, 000 small holder farmers in Chikwawa and Nsanje districts through irrigation. 43,370 hectares are expected to be irrigated through the project.
The Minister also visited Illovo and Phata Cane Cooperative as some off-takers within the SVTP impact area.