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Dr Henrie Njoloma

Welcome to the site of Dr. Henrie Njoloma.

Henrie Njoloma is an irrigation engineer currently studying for MSc at Miyazaki University in Japan.

Henrie as an irrigation engineer has helped Malawi to design some of the successful irrigation schemes for the small holder farmers in the country. On this site Henry is explaining what is the fact about Malawia's irrigation sector.

Henrie's own personnal annalysis on the issue of Malawi's Irrigation Sector and Government Willingness to Invest in the Irrigation Infrastucture.

Some facts to look at;

I still stand by my opinion which was also echoed by
Dr. Chilumpha. Firstly let's look at some facts on
irrigation in Malawi:

1. It's true that Government Constructed Irrigation
schemes in some parts of the country which are either
being under utilised or they have completely dried out
and hence stopped working.

My vision is that Government must invest in
sustainable  infrustructure if Irrigation is to have a
meaningful effect on curbing hunger in Malawi.
all the schemes Mike is talking about in his posting
were GOVERNMENT PROPERTY (managed and run by MYP
organisation in a non democratic governement where
descision making was TOP to BOTTOM approach!). And all
were LARGE SCALE schemes not belonging to Small Scale
farmers whose house-holds are the most vulnerable when
hunger strikes!

In the Multi Party political dispensation where
democratic values are more important in decision
making, it was forced upon these schemes to be run by
small-holder farmers, (remember what's happening at
DOMASI and Likangala Irrigation schemes-where
smallholders are being encouraged to manage and run
the scheme), and such moves require HUGE sums of money
to transfer the schems to small scale farmers.

Now the biggest problem is that the design of these
schemes (the canal network, etc) were made with Large
Scale Farmer orrientation and to conform them now to
fit the flexibility of small scale farmer's network
needs, becomes a costly affair. As poor as our
Governement is, these indeed became `White Elephants'.
Similar mistakes were made at Bwanje Irrigation Scheme
- and now there are many problem there.

The bottom line is that You can't design a scheme
meant for Large Scale Farmers and use it in a Small
Scale farmer setting! It will simply fail!!

Technologically, If all local hydrological zones
(catchments) were understood and that networks of
artificial `rivers' (man made conduits and canals)
were constructed to criss-cross@our small-holder
gardens where both ground and surface waters
(rivers,lakes and dams) are not readily exploitable
for irrigation use, we can achieve more in making
hunger History in Malawi! This is just one example!

2. That aside; I also still maintain that THE WILL
(whether it's by government or our Politicians) is
simply not there although everyone knows what
Irrigation can do to root out hunger.

In the past 40 years, How many Irrigation Feaseability
Studies have we conducted? And how many of them have
actually materialised into constructed irrigation
infrustructure? Actually even the much talked projects
under Smallholder Flood Plains Development Programme
by IFAD, what meaningful infrustructure has been
constructed on the ground that would make a
difference? Lack of finance on the side of the farmers
is not a Problem of their making, It's because the
WILL to have Irrigation schemes is not TRANSLATED into

Our politicians pay more lip service than acting on
pertinent issuses when they are in Parliament. They
would rather debate MP's salary increment motion than
to increse funding in the Irrigation Sector! They
would rather buy grain from other countries (including
GMOs) than subsidise the local production cost of
which irrigation is one! and many examples can be said
where the will has not been put into action!

Actually in one of the Malawi Government-ADB meetings
that I attended to look at why The Food Crops
Irrigation project was not taking off, It was
discovered that Malawi Government was not using the
Money from ADB (in other words the government was not
claiming the money)  for more than 3 year after ADB
approved the project   because  no action had been
made on the ground to enable the project take off and
hence they could not use the funds. I vividly remember
Hon. Aleke Banda and the late Dr. Clement Mzembe (the
then Controller of Irrigation) travelling to Abidjan,
to lobby the ADB to extend the project period because
ADB was about to cancel the project! The problem is
not money but Willingness by all of us (the sector
stakeholders) to achieve a formidable battle against

3. As noted in both postings by Mike and Rodney, the
failure of the Pumps that were given to Governemnt by
Japanese and Chinese governments to assist in
irrigation can be attributed to poor selection of
technology on the side of the Irrigation
professionals. I can't remember how the pumps were
given to Malawi BUT what I remember was that I was
contracted by Department of Irrigation in 1997 to
carry out some technical study tests on the pumps
before they were distributed to farmers. these pumps
came without any data for use. In other words they
were water pumps and NOT Irrigation Pumps! It should
be remembered that not all Water Pumps are Irrigation

I tested the pumps at Bunda Farm near the Dam and my
mandate was to come up with a basic design sheet and
the accompanying equipement for each type of the pump
so that we can try and use them for small to medium
Irrigation installations. I was also required to make
recommendations on how much available Suction Head
would be required at each installation site. All tests
were done. A report was written highlighting
recommendations  to both late Dr. Mzembe and late Dr.
Mapopa Chipeta (the then Minister of Agriculture) who
had much interest in this activity) and awaiting their
action. One main attribute discovered was that the
pumps were assembled from very cheap material.
Especially the Chinese pumps were virtually useless.
Althogh they could pump about 3 to 5m3/hr they could
not sustain an entire crop growing period because of
possible frequent breakdowns!

The politics of that time made a lot of noise about
Irrigation and wanted to see the Department of
Irrigation acting very fast! Despite such an excersise
noone took heed of the technical recommendations  and
the pumps were distributed in a hurriedly manner to
ADDs, RDPs and some powerful politicians of that time.
Some got them free and others got them on a loan. And
a survey of all them just a few years after, nothing
would be found to have made any impact.

A pump requires a proper equipment to use! That was
not followed! In designing a Pump based Irrigation
System, an irrigation pump is selected UNIQUELY for a
particular site (that's how I was trained), and in
fact pump selection is the last thing to be done in a
CHOOSE A PUMP FIRST although it's possible - but you
will have to work very hard to find a suitable site!!

With such unreliable pump technology one cannot rely
on the irrigation systems they are pumping into since
they cannot sustain an entire irrigation croping
period. Actually I don't blame those who have thrown
these away! They were simply BAD pumps and it was
wrong to be used for irrigation.

The Chinese should have donated something better Or
else The Department of Irrigation should have asked
for better pumps for our farmers. If the idea was to
donate many pumps to reach for many beneficiaries,
then we got it wrong. After all quality is what
matters and not qauntity.

As for the (5 horsepower (HP) - Japanese pumps, they
were not meant for Irrigation. I would proposed to
have  utilised them better in the Contruction Industry
as De-watering pumps and not in Irrigation. They
simply were very unreliable.

4. Just to add; in 1994 when the first multiparty
parliament met, they agreed with UDF government to
priotised Irrigation Farming and yet no tangible
financial initiative was made for the sustainance of
the old schemes. They also voted for the government
bill to establish 56, 12 ha sprinkler schemes at 56
sites along Shire river and Lake Malawi. I was
involved in the designing of these schemes when I was
working with Farming and Engineering (FES) irrigation
company. My observation was that no sustainability
programs were clearly laid down so that the farmers
can reap the best out of these systems. I personaly
advised the Controller of Irrigation Services (the
late Dr. Mzembe) because I was the one who installed
the first 3 systems in the Lower shire and did not
want to see them dying.

I aso noted that the goverment extension workers were
shying away from the schemes because they were
illiterate on the entire irrigation farming let alone
on the technical aspects of the operation of a
motorised system. I proposed a simple training but
funding was not available for such. I don't even know
what has become of these sites now! (May be Rodney can
brief me!)

During my BSc project in 1999, I tried to utilise
these same opportunity (from governemnt) and design a
12 ha irrigation scheme at Kaliyoti Village in
Mchinji. This time my approach was to use a
particiapatory approach in the design steps, designing
a system together with the farmers by guiding them
through the scientific - engineering proceedure .
Together with my other friends, we managed to mobilise
the community and came up with a design.

I briefed the late Dr. Mzembe about our work and
requested for a possible governemnt funding for this
site using the Sprinkler Vote. Before I was even given
a response, one of the Lilongwe Indian Traders went to
the site, without consulting the community or us who
laid the ground work, and installed a 12 ha all
moveable system with a cumbersome Indian made pump!
The project had problems in the first year but later
the farmers managed to crop 3 ha of the designed 12ha
and in due course the pump broke down and the battery
went flat, etc, etc. I don`t know how the situation is
like now!

Whether coruption made a greater part of the day or it
was just convinience since this trader had the
equipment readily availble, I cannot say BUT certainly
a better job could have been done to ensure that the
irrigation system benefits the poor farmers for a
longer time!

Well, I can say many things but let me stop here so
that we have something to write about next time!

Henrie M. Njoloma,

Division of Agricultural Environment and Development,
Faculty of Agriculture,6th Floor,Room 611,
Graduate School of Agriculture,
University of Miyazaki,

Phone; + 81 (0) 90 6290 4576
To look at the world, start with your community' Prof. Akinobo
Sumiyoshi, 2004, University of Miyazaki President