Blantyre, The Shire Valley Agriculture Development Division (SVADD) has plans to intensify winter cropping as one means of beating the current food shortage that has engulfed the area due to dry spells and false Army Worms.
Shire Valley Agriculture Development Division (SVADD) Program Manager Ida Mwato told Malawi News Agency (MANA) on Wednesday that the move is deliberate to ensure that farmers fully utilize the wetlands along the Shire River and the numerous irrigation schemes that are in the area.
Mwato explained that the Division experienced a dry spell in the month of February and then False Army Worms devoured maize in the area and has caused a huge reduction in the estimated yields hence the focus on irrigation.
The first crop estimate projected that SVADD would produce 56, 329 Metric tons of maize during the 2016-2017 agricultural season but as the situation stands, the yields may reduce by half, explained Mwato.
According to Mwato, there is a high possibility of filling the food deficit that the area currently has through winter cropping as it is better poised with plenty of wetlands along the Shire River plus a number of irrigation schemes.
Recently, new schemes have been constructed in Chikwawa and Nsanje by government with support from donors under the Agriculture Infrastructure Support Program (AISP) and Smallholder Irrigation Value Addition Project (SIVAP) and this has increased land available for irrigation, explained Mwato.
According to Mwato, they plan that 27, 000 hectares of land should be assigned to maize production with other cash crops such as; tomatoes, onions, green vegetables, beans and sweet potatoes being assigned to the remaining land.
However, she bemoaned the presence of False Army worms in the valley as one setback that farmers continue to experience adding that government is currently dispersing pesticide to farmers in need.
We are assisting farmers with pesticides that were supplied by the ministry with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and also we are giving support to those who are independently sourcing the pesticides by training them on proper use, she explained.
The SVADD is a low lying area which perpetually receives poor rainfall and floods that affect people’s livelihoods
Source: Malawi News Agency � MANA