The Civil Society Agriculture Network (CSANET) is faulting the move to start billing irrigation water saying such could negatively impact the agriculture sector which drives Malawi’s economy.
CISANET’s position comes after the National Water Resource Authority justified its move to enforce billing irrigation farmers as stipulated in the 1969 Water Resources Act.
To bill a client, the National Water Authority looks at the volume of water used, with the minimum amount being K10,000.
However, CISANET Board Chairperson Herbert Chagona fears the move could be a financial burden to farmers, promote inequality, and discourage investment in the Agriculture sector
“The billing system may disproportionately affect small-scale farmers who have limited resources and struggle to afford the minimum billing amount.
“This could lead to inequality in access to water resources and hinder inclusive growth in the agriculture sector.
“I am sure you are aware how much we have been vocal of late on food and nutrition insecurity in the country; and the consequences to the country’s socio-economic development at large,” Chagona said.
According to Chagona, the government may discourage potential investors from entering the agriculture sector by imposing billing on irrigation farmers.
He has since proposed approaches that aim to address the issue of fair usage and management of water resources.
These may include the promotion of water-saving technologies, capacity-building programs for farmers on efficient irrigation practices, and the establishment of water user cooperatives to collectively manage and pay for water resources, according to Chagona.
While over 3,000 irrigation farmers are currently being billed under this system, some are worried that enforcement of this Act may affect efforts toward agricultural commercialization, one of the three critical enablers of Malawi 2063, the country’s long-term development blueprint.