From near famine to feast

From near famine to feast

“Last year the water was 3 meters deep. It would have been over our heads,” explained Godfrey. In this part of Southern Malawi, more than 25 individuals lost their lives to the severe flooding of 2015. This year the rains haven’t been enough and the crops are suffering. When the crops suffer, so do the people. Rain means crops, crops means food and food means life.

“The soil is good, we just need water,” said Godfrey.

Unfortunately, water, that well-spring of life, is in short supply across Malawi and much of Southern Africa. Climate change and the El Niño phenomenon manifest as more powerful and extreme weather. This is especially devastating for smallholder farmers like Godfrey.

Food for today, livelihoods for tomorrow

World Vision steps into these challenging times and places alongside communities, government and other organisations to build a hunger-free future. Food assistance is provided for today – buying farmers time and space to build livelihoods and resilience for tomorrow.

Monthly rations are provided, consisting of: 50 kilos of maize, 10 kilos of split peas and 2 litres of oil. This help is provided during the so-called "lean season," a six-month period from October to March, when food supplies typically run low or out completely.

But that is just the beginning. 

Monthly rations of maize, split peas and oil 

For the most vulnerable children and families, World Vision supports them by providing farming inputs - 25 kilos of seed and 50 kilos of fertilizer, which help produce a bigger and better bounty.

But there is more.

Leaving nothing to chance

World Vision also helps farmers build irrigation schemes. When most are relying on erratic rainfall to water crops, the cooperatives World Vision organizes leave nothing to chance.

The World Vision National Director summed it up this way, “We don’t need rain; we need water.”

This is how it works.

 Irrigation explained by cooperative member

Twenty farmers with neighbouring plots are grouped into irrigation cooperatives. Each farmer has approximately 0.1 hectare of land - 20 x 50 metres - or slightly larger than football penalty box. Working together, they install a simple underground network of pipes from the small nearby river to each plot. A simple foot powered pump, similar to something you would find on an antique sowing machine, provides the suction necessary to siphon the water. The pipes lead to a narrow ground-level channel the farmers have installed to help the water evenly disperse across the fallows of the fields. The farmers use the treadle pump to flood the irrigation scheme with water for five hours every three weeks.

Godfrey walks past the irrigation scheme

Revitalising fields, improving yields and ensuring meals

Amazingly, farmers using these irrigation schemes are able to produce up to 18 bags of maize from these small plots. A family of five may only require 10-12 bags for the year.

From Chizenga to Chabuka, World Vision helped establish five irrigation schemes for 100 farmers in Chikwawa district alone. More are envisioned for the future.

Godfrey smiles knowing his family is hunger-free

Last year, Godfrey harvested 18 bags of maize. He reserved ten bags for food and sold eight. With his earnings, he was able to pay school fees for his son to attend one of the best secondary schools in the area. Godfrey was also able to purchase clothes for his family.

Even during troubling climatic times, Godfrey was able to produce three times the amount of maize that a family would receive from "lean season" food assistance. This is how World Vision is building a hunger-free future.