Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 15:53 UK

Irrigation boost for Malawi farms

Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi will be used to irrigate the country's farmland

Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika has announced plans for a massive irrigation project to increase the country's food production.

He said a green belt would be established along Lake Malawi, which straddles a third of the country.

Although Malawi has huge supplies of fresh water, only 2% of the land is irrigated, experts say.

Most farming is done on a small scale mainly by peasant farmers who grow maize, the country's staple food.

President Mutharika said he would appeal for international investment to increase food production not just for Malawi, but for the world.

"Where there is a river, we will try to start irrigation. We should grow everything so that we have food all the time," he said as he prepared to leave for Norway to attend a conference on how to bring about a "Green Revolution" in Africa.

"God gave us water. We have a lot of rivers and lakes. We are going into irrigation farming in a big way," he told state radio.

He said his country would no longer beg for food, and would boost its food production to start exporting to other countries.

"We don't eat much rice but we are going to produce a lot of rice to feed the rest of the world."

In 2005, the government imported more than 300,000 tonnes of food as up to five million people faced starvation following drought.

The government has also spent $50m on a programme which provides subsidised fertiliser to small-scale farmers.

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Country profile: Malawi
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