Illovo Sugar Malawi providing water for irrigation for sorrounding Nchalo Estate communities

Illovo Sugar Malawi providing water for irrigation for sorrounding Nchalo Estate communities
Illovo Sugar Malawi providing water for irrigation for sorrounding Nchalo Estate communities

Africa-Press – Malawi. Through partnership with USAID’s ‘Feed the Future Agricultural Diversification Activity’ — under Resilience Challenge Fund — Illovo Sugar Malawi Plc is providing water for irrigation schemes of the sorrounding communities of its Nchalo Estate in Chikwawa.

The company signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the beneficiary communities — the first of its kind agreement between the private institution and the local people in its strive to advance its motto of ‘Creating a Thriving Community’.

“The non-binding and simple agreement formalises the partnership by listing the commitments and expectations of both Illovo and the community that includes the provision of water for irrigation and technical & agronomic advice.

Illovo is also expected to source other partners and market opportunities while the communities will take ownership of the scheme; respect boundaries; cooperate and support security initiatives.

Construction of the two irrigation schemes adjacent to Nchalo Estate is benefiting 321 farmers of which 168 are women and 153 men on a 19.5 hectare land which was commissioned in 2023 at estimated cost of US%160,000.

Each farmer is allocated 6 ridges of 100m long each and plans are to expand the hectarage to increase more ridges per farmer as well as add in more farmers to cultivate twice a year in crop diversification.

The pumping stations are equipped with nine huge solar panels of about 15m long and the operators of the pumping machine were professionally trained by Illovo safety measures technicians and the sugar company will time and again inspect the facility for safety measures in line with those of Illovo.

The initiative is for the beneficiary farmers diversify through cultivating cash crops such as sugar beans and cotton, which thrives well in the climate conditions of the Lower Shire, but so far only maize has been planted more because of the weather challenges in the past three years.

Trials were done on the sugar beans and cotton as the beneficiaries aim to commercialise the scheme with high value crops and good agronomic practices.

USAID’s AgDiv project financed for the development of the schemes and all contracting and consulting work and contractors involved included Agricane — which provided scheme design, contract management, construction supervision and training.

FES, one of the companies subcontracted to Illovo, invested in land preparation, road access, drainage installation of drip equipment & solar and also training.

Netafim gave detailed design and provision of drip equipment while communities provided labour on initial land clearing and are also providing community policing services to secure their investment.

The scheme members finance for themselves in buying all farm inputs (seeds, fertilizer, labour for planting, weeding etc) through membership fees that also go towards paying for the security personnel, pump station operators and maintenance of the scheme.

At the MoU agreement activity on Friday at Ntondo village where Illovo staff were taken on a visit of the scheme’s site, Principal Chief Tizola — who represented Paramount Chief Lundu — said currently the 321 farmers are from the villages of Bester, Robert, Samson, Yohane and Mkuziwalera and pleaded that the expansion of the hectarage is long overdue as other villages anticipates to benefit as well.

He attested that the project has lessened food scarcity by far and if more farmers join it, the whole of the sorrounding Illovo communities would be food secure as well as be financially sound from the cash crops to be grown.

He assured Illovo as support partners that they have contributed and put in place a robust security system of volunteers, who — apart from patrolling their investment and crop fields — will also keep an eye on the Illovo fields, which of late has been the target of theft of sugarcane, irrigation equipment, infrastructure as well as arson acts of its fields.

Project lead on the part of Illovo, Dr. Albert Mkumba assured the beneficiaries that he is committed to ensure that the project and the MoU will be sustained and grown into an admirable mega farm as advocated by the government towards food sufficiency and commercilisation.

He implored on the community members to desist from encroaching into Illovo fields to steam sugarcane and other equipment and applauded the establishment of the policing system.

“We survive in our business through production of sugar from the very sugarcanes that people are stealing,” he said. “If we keep losing sugarcane and some of the equipment used for production, we well not be able to make profits which we ploughing back into the public in order to contribute towards our motto of ‘Creating a Thriving Community.”

Mkumba impressed on them that through the profits they make they are able to invest into public health, education and agriculture — one of which is their contribution towards the irrigation scheme of the sorrounding communities.

On his part, Nchalo Estate General Manager, Ricky Pillay applauded the traditional leadership and its subjects for positively taking ownership of the project, saying its success is a result of continued commitment of working together.

He described the chiefs as development conscious leaders, saying that’s why they have formalized the MoU and are committed to offer more technical expertise and to attract other stakeholder partnerships and markets.

He encouraged them to firmly uphold the constitution they contributed to be formulated, emphasising that it is the weapon they have to secure and protect their food and financial sufficiency while also imploring on them to safeguard assets of Illovo Sugar Malawi.

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