By Chancy Namadzunda
Farmers in Lilongwe in Traditional Authority Maliri have abandoned irrigation farming after loosing K1 050 000 during the last season.
The loss, according to a Mr. Howard, chairperson of Chaima Irrigation Scheme was incurred after the farmers spent the money on seeds, fertilizer and chemicals but their efforts and investment was brought to a halt when they run out of fuel for the motorized pumps they use.
Chaima Irigation Scheme had membership of over 70 households and was operating in the villages of TA Malili with technical assistance from Foundation for Irrigation and Sustainable Development (FISD).
“We contributed about K15 000 each for fertilizer, seed and other chemicals. We planted our crops at a right time and everything was normal and promising but as soon as we applied fertilizer for basal dressing, the country had acute shortage of fuel which affected the whole system since we relied on motorized pumps as we were farming at large scale basis.
“This was also a time when the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) banned the use of gallons and generators at filling station, so we just sat down and watch our efforts going down the drain, all our investment being wasted just like that, at the end of it all, we had nothing to harvest and everyone was demoralized,” said Howard.
One of FISD Directors Moses Chirambo said as an organization, they had nothing they could have done to bail out the farmers as they are only there to give technical advice to the farmers.
“After giving the community the advice, we leave everything to them to make decisions. We would want them to be very independent and we can not force them to plant when actually they are getting nothing in turn.
“Actually, this shows that when things go up, it is a poor farmer who suffers most. Unfortunately, this is one of the many schemes which were growing tremendously,” he said.
Chirambo said they are currently conducting a study through FISD Institute of Agriculture, Water and Environment to determine how much the fuel crisis has affected irrigation farming in the country.
“It will help us to know how best we can help the farmers in such circumstance because the situation right now has demoralized schemes which are using motorized pumps as the fuel shortage and price rise has caused the system to be unsustainable to farmers,” he said.