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Chokwe irrigation to be fully operational by late 2013

29 April 2010, Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique

Maputo:  Mozambican Prime Minister Aires Ali announced on Saturday that the country's largest irrigation scheme, at Chokwe in the Limpopo Valley, will be fully rehabilitated by the end of 2013, in order to guarantee that its potential can be fully exploited.  The Chokwe irrigation scheme covers 33,000 hectares, but only 7,000 are currently under cultivation, mostly by rice producers.

Chokwe suffered devastation in February 2000 during catastrophic floods on the Limpopo. Since then bits of the irrigation scheme have undergone sporadic rehabilitation, but this has come nowhere near full recovery.

Yet Chokwe will be crucial for the government's plans to reduce the country's dependence on imported rice. It intends to restore the Chokwe irrigated perimeter to fully operational status, as part of the promised Green Revolution.

Speaking to reporters at the end of a two day visit to Chokwe district, Ali said the deadline for full rehabilitation was the end of 2013. Work would begin this year, he said, including on the area currently under cultivation.

"This year we shall ensure the rehabilitation of the 7,000 hectares currently being exploited, and we are knocking on the doors of our partners to continue the work in other parts of the scheme", said the Prime Minister.

The rehabilitation of the 7,000 hectares will cost 12 million dollars, for which the government has negotiated funding from the Islamic Development Bank.

Meeting with associations of Chokwe farmers, Ali told them that, if they and the government could succeed in fully exploiting the Chokwe irrigation scheme, they would make a substantial contribution to improving the national economy.

"I think it is important that the irrigation scheme be rehabilitated", he stressed. "We have to work so as to exploit rapidly the maximum irrigation capacity. We have to step up the pace - but with sure steps so that we don't trip over".

Ali underlined the importance of planning the work to be done, in the short, medium and long term. "We must not be taken by surprise by the start of the agricultural campaign", he said. "We must not be taken by surprise by rain. We must have the spirit of raising our concerns, of interacting and of coordinating".

During the meeting, the Chokwe farmers presented Ali with a list of the difficulties they face, including the degradation of access roads throughout the irrigated area, lack of involvement of the private sector in producing seeds, the high cost of agricultural inputs, and the low producer prices for their crops.

The Prime Minister recognised that, despite these difficulties, the farmers are working, and "are not complaining with folded arms".

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