Rice machine inside the facility...Pic by Steve Chirombo, MANA
Farmers under Thabwa Cooperative in Traditional Authority Mulilima in Chikwawa have complained that they were failing to start using the value addition centre constructed under Shire Valley Agricultural Irrigation Project (SVAP) five months after its completion.
Farmers from Livunzu and Dumwalili cooperatives which form Thabwa Cooperative Society are accusing authorities for failing to expedite electricity connection to Thabwa Cooperative for it to start normal operations.
Vice Chairperson for Thabwa Cooperative, Fryton Phompho said on Sunday that the two cooperatives produce huge quantities of pigeon peas and rice whereby they would want the machine to start processing.
“We have 1,950 bags of pigeon peas in our stock but we are just keeping the bags because the station house has no electricity to run the machine process the peas,” he claimed.
“As a cooperative we have tried asking government through the line ministry of agriculture by sending letters to the project management unit in Lilongwe which is responsible for the project but such efforts have not yielded any positive results,” Phombo added.
Traditional Authority Mulilima said his subjects were working tirelessly in farming activities but due to poor markets of crop produce they were unable to develop the agriculture sector such that the Thabwa project was considered as the only hope to help them sale their commodities at competitive prices.
He challenged that Chikwawa has never been a begging district, apart from experiencing natural calamities in form of floods and dry spells.
“It is time for Thabwa station house to be connected to power so that farmers can start producing pigeon peas flour and start benefiting from their toil unlike being robbed by vendors.” Mulilima lamented.
Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Irrigation, Joseph Chidanti Malunga said government provided all the needed materials for the completion of the house but that the project stalled due to suspected poor management of funds at some point.
“Construction of the value addition centre was under the Ministry of Agriculture in the office of Project Management Unit (PMU), but I blame management of the said office and the contractor who have contributed to the delays of the programme,” he singled out.
Chidanti assured the concerned farmers that he would deliver the concerns in the next parliamentary session where he would also engage other relevant stakeholders on the same.
Once in full operation, the project would help 15,130 farmers from Dumwaliri and Livunzu cooperatives to start producing pigeon peas flour and rice which can be ready for sale at a reasonable price.