Dedza, President Professor Peter Mutharika on Tuesday officially launched construction works for a multipurpose dam in Bwanje Valley in the area Senior Chief Kachindamoto in Dedza which is budgeted for K6.4 billion.
Speaking after laying a foundation stone for the project, Mutharika said the dam is going to be one of its kind in the country’s history and is also going to be the largest in the whole Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region.
He said the dam is intended to improve availability of water for irrigation in the Bwanje irrigation scheme which covers an area of 800 hectares of land.
The dam whose construction we are launching today will ensure adequate water supply throughout the year. Currently, this is not the case, as only about a quarter of the scheme is irrigated during the dry season due to low water flows, he said.
Mutharika said the country needs to intensify irrigation farming in order to become a predominantly producing and exporting nation saying rain-fed agriculture is not reliable due to climatic shocks.
For us to turn Malawi into a producing and exporting country, we need to develop our agriculture sector. But the problem has been our water management and irrigation system.
The country’s agriculture is mostly rain-fed hence our production is vulnerable to climate change. When rainfall fails, our crops fail, Mutharika said.
He said government has put in place necessary mechanisms for promoting irrigation farming to enhance food security in the country and help smallholder farmers grow their incomes.
We now have a National Irrigation Policy to guide our actions better than ever. And we are expanding and diversifying power generation for us to pump huge amounts of water for long distances, he said.
The dam is designed to be 40 meters high and approximately 150 meters long with a storage capacity of over 500 million cubic liters, according to Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Agrey Massi, who spoke earlier.
In his remarks, European Union (EU) Ambassador to Malawi, Marchel German, said the country needs to invest in management of catchment areas and ensure more trees are planted to conserve water.
The dam construction is being funded by EU and the first phase is expected to be completed by December 2017 while its second phase will be finalized in 2019.
The Bwanje irrigation scheme was established in 1999 and is mainly synonymous with large scale production of rice.
Source: Malawi News Agency � MANA