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September 14, 2008

Malawi seeks international backing for irrigation project

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika said on September 11 he will seek international investment for his ambitious "green belt" irrigation project to boost food production and combat hunger.

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

Mutharika last month announced that his nation was to begin irrigation farming using water from Lake Malawi and the country's rivers to boost food production. He gave no figures for the required investment, but in remarks broadcast on state radio, he said international firms had expressed interest in the project.

Despite the huge fresh-water supply from Lake Malawi, Africa's third-largest, agricultural experts say only two percent of land is irrigated and most farming is small scale and dependent on rain.

Sixty percent of Malawi's 13 million citizens live below the poverty line. The country met its food needs for the first time in seven years in 2006 with a harvest of 2.2 million tonnes of maize, the country's staple.

Famine threatened up to five million people in 2005 following drought, forcing the Mutharika administration to spend more than 100 million dollars (71.7 million euros) to import over 400,000 tonnes of food.


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