Madame Gertrude Mutharika speaks to the Farmers of Bwanje Valley Cooperative Society Limited on her tour together with Lesotho 1st Ladyc Abel Ikiloni Mana
Dedza, 29 November, 2017: First Lady Madam Gertrude Mutharika has hailed Bwanje Rice Scheme farmers of Traditional Authority Kachindamoto in Dedza for forming a cooperative through which they are processing and packaging rice for up market chain stores as well as export markets.
Mutharika was speaking Tuesday when she accompanied First Lady for the Kingdom of Lesotho, Maesaiah Thabane, who visited the scheme to appreciate how the farmers grow and process kilombero, the rice variety which she said is very popular in her country (Lesotho).
Mutharika commended the farmers, saying they were contributing positively to the growth of the country's economy.
"Agriculture is the engine of this country's economic growth and what the farmers are doing here is very commendable.
"I am particularly impressed that they are adding value to the rice they produce by milling and packaging it. That is the direction which the government is encouraging farmers to take," she said.
On her part, the First Lady of the Kingdom of Lesotho said she was happy to personally interact with the rice farmers.
She said Malawian rice; especially of Kilombero variety is very popular in her country because of its good flavor.
"It has been a refreshing tour to Malawi since I have personally met the rice farmers and have appreciated the brilliant work they are doing to uplift themselves as well as their families.
"I have learnt a lot and I am going back to Lesotho with ideas that will benefit our farmers," she said.
Chairperson for the scheme, Jasten Kasitomu, said the scheme has 800 hectares of land on which they produce over 5000 metric tons of rice when they plant using rain fed agriculture.
Kasitomu, however, said they only utilize 200 hectares of the scheme during the dry season due to water scarcity.
He, therefore, commended a dam construction project which the government is implementing in the area, saying it will boost their rice production as they will be able to irrigate the whole area even during the dry season.
President Professor Peter Mutharika in May this year (2017) laid a foundation stone for the project with a declaration that it is going to be the first of its kind in the country and that it will be the biggest in the whole Southern African region.
The dam is designed to be about 60 meters high and approximately 150 meters long with a storage capacity of 500 million cubic meters.
The dam project is funded by European Union (EU). It started in 2016 and its first phase is scheduled to be completed in 2018