A US$5.5 million project managed by Inosselia Company Limited from Israel is a milestone in the development of Malawi’s agriculture sector involving 16 hectares of greenhouse production and is expected to boost the country’s food security.
Currently, three greenhouses are in operation and already producing tomato, cucumber, eggplants, melons and peppers and the first harvest is expected in a week’s time.
Situated at Lumbadzi in Lilongwe, it is a place which brings innovative technologies from Israel and uses pumps to suck water from its system and fed into the gardens with ESCOM power and a standby generator with 300 kilo volts amps.
Almost 99 percent of workers are local Malawians with only two expatriates and it currently has 102 Malawian staff and expects to employ 160 more when it becomes fully operational.
A training facility will be part of the component and will help in transferring of modern technology for drip irrigation and equip locals to have a sense of ownership of the project and attain skills of managing a greenhouse using modern irrigation techniques.
Greenbelt Authority Acting Chief Executive Officer Amon Mluwira said he is delighted with the pace of the project adding that with the COVID-19 pandemic, he never expected that by October it will get this far.
“But you have seen yourselves that we’ll be having our first production in the next week so we’re very delighted as Greenbelt Authority,” he explained.
Mluwira could however not estimate the amount to be realiSed from the proceeds of the sales as the Authority has made arrangements with different upmarket shops like Shoprite Tete and Chipata and there are likely to be variations in pricing.
He described the project as an important venture to the development of agriculture in Malawi.
“I would say this is one of the critical successful examples of a PPP. So in terms of agricultural development in this country, this project is in tandem with the current agenda of government which is agricultural transformation and food security and also the issues of trade and commerce; so this is a very important project,” explained Mluwira
With a 49 percent stake in the project, he is optimistic Malawi will benefit a lot as it wanted to tap from the experience of the advanced irrigation technology from Israel hence their holding of the 51 percent in the project.
He indicated that this will be diluted along the way, but it will not necessarily be the Authority holding the majority shareholding, but rather be flouted to the general public to own shares in the facility.
In terms of import substitution, most of the vegetables in the upmarket shops are imported from South Africa and he is upbeat the business venture will change this.
“We are using forex to import vegetables but with this facility what it means is that we’ll be saving the forex and then all the vegetables will be produced right here in Malawi.
“And we are not just talking about import substitution; we’re also looking at the issue of shelf life because if you import vegetables from South Africa, you’re talking about seven days. You’ve taken seven days of the shelf life, but here we’re talking about 30 minutes to the capital city and utmost six hours to Blantyre and Mzuzu”
An Agronomist from Israel Tal Amit, is managing the farm as he tries to make the greenhouse as clean as a pharmacy to help in promoting the health and sanitation of the plants.
He explained that he wants to give as much knowledge as he can to expand the technology and technical knowledge in creating the best solutions for the project.
It will kick-start with half a tonne of cucumbers per week which will increase to two tonnes per week together with tomatoes in one month which will increase to two tonnes per week and will later get to 6 tonnes per week.
Amit indicated that in one month, they expect six tonnes of different crops of the produce.
“We do have varying amounts of fruits and vegetables for the Malawian market and we do hope that there will be enough demand by the Malawian market so we could sell our produce to all interested people” said the Agronomist.
He was upbeat that the local villagers employed will have the opportunity to learn and get the expertise in a growing production under greenhouses and the food quantities being produced will help boost the country’s food security.
With the impending rainy season, the company expects to complete construction of the green houses by July next year and without it the work could have been done three months early.
It is working hard on the trenches to prevent flooding inside the houses so that all the water will either be harvested or led outside of the farm
Inosselia Company is concentrating on construction and anticipates having eight completed greenhouses by the end of November in readiness for harvesting and transplanting.
Among others, he cited scarcity of cement and other materials which they need but are expensive and cannot be found in Malawi hence need to import.
According to the Manager, the produce is being earmarked for the local market and the remaining could be exported to get forex into Malawi.