The first time I visited Chokwe district in the province of Gaza, which is located some 230 km from the capital city of Maputo, tales of agriculture riches popped into my head. For years, the official narrative has labelled Chokwe district the nation’s food basket. “Well, at least for the southern part of the country,” I thought out loud, somewhat unconvinced while driving there. That was before I laid eyes on the gigantic, and arguably the largest, gravity-irrigated system ever built in the country, covering 37,000 hectares of fertile land downstream the majestic Limpopo River. There, I witnessed the harvesting of tomatoes, and other vegetables, and the overall upbeat mood among farmers, traders, and residents of the rich valley.
Amid pomp, traditional dance and splendor, in rural Chisamba, central Province, the President of Zambia, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, cut an elaborate ribbon donned in Zambian colors of red, black, green and orange to lay a foundation stone to mark the construction of the Mwomboshi Dam. The dam construction is funded by the World Bank under the Irrigation Development and Support Project (ISDP) with the amount of $37 million. Not only did I attend this significant ground-breaking ceremony as a representative of the World Bank Group (WBG), but I also took the opportunity to say a Bemba agriculture idiom I have been taught by my colleagues at the office.
Food prices are spiking globally and in Africa one way to ensure food security is to rethink the role of irrigation in agriculture and food production.
Achieving food security in Africa is a critical issue, even as efforts are stymied by drought, floods, pestilence and more. To these natural disasters, we can add the challenge of a changing climate that is predicted to hit Africa disproportionately hard.
So, what can we do? World Water Week kicked off on Sunday in Stockholm and how water impacts food security will be the focus.
In the World Bank’s Africa Region, we are working on the belief that a proven way to expand agriculture and food production in Africa is to focus on scaling up irrigation programs, bringing water to parched lands, and strengthening the hands of farmers who produce food against climatic odds.