By Solister Mogha
Zomba, November 21, Mana: Save the Children Malawi and United Purpose has handed over a solar powered irrigation scheme to Mikuyu Reformatory Centre in Zomba valued at K40 million covering ten hectares.
The scheme is expected to improve crop production and the nutrition status of inmates at the facility.
Speaking during the handover ceremony, Director of Operations for Save the Children, Frank Mwafulirwa, said food security is one of the critical cross-cutting issues which have high chances of propelling malnutrition in children.
Mwafulirwa also said food insecurity encourages children especially girls to be victims of sexual abuse and torture and increase criminal cases in society, noting that it also hinders educational progress of leaners.
“Save the Children is a child centred organization and when we discovered that we have prisons that keep children we decided to establish a solar powered irrigation scheme so that we address the problem of food shortage in prisons,” he said.
“Through the scheme, we are assured of plenty of food for the prison and that children behind bars will have a well-balanced diet since they will be able to cultivate vegetables, tomatoes and other crops,” Mwafulirwa added.
Mwafulirwa said the scheme would also be used as a training base for prisoners on irrigation farming so that when they get back to society, they can make use of the skills and knowledge gained while in prison.
Programmes Manager for United Purpose , Esther Mweso, appealed to prison management to take proper care of the scheme, saying it has the capacity to feed all prisons in the southern region if put to maximum use.
“It is sad sometimes to see a very good project becoming a white elephant soon after it has been delivered. I am sure this will not be the case with this scheme which we hope would greatly improve on food security in prison which is one of the major challenges,” Mweso said.
Commissioner of Prisons responsible for Farms and Industry, Clement Kainja, described the irrigation scheme as one of the major projects ever implemented in the country’s prisons, noting that it would go a long way in addressing the perennial challenges of food shortage.
Kainja said the problem arises due to economic hardships facing the institution coupled with the ever increasing number of prisoners.
He said the irrigation scheme provides a solution to food shortages and will improve the nutritional status of inmates.
“We are happy to have an irrigation scheme that will allow us grow crops more than twice a year. This will greatly improve food production and also boost our income since we will be able to sale the surplus,” he said.
Kainja said the skills that the inmates would gain by participating in farming would empower them to be self-reliant once they complete serving their terms.
He assured the two development partners that management would take care of the donation to live its 20-year life span.
Funded by European Union, the scheme was implemented by a consortium of United Nations agencies with the Malawi Government contributing 50 percent of the budget.