For ordinary people, everyday life is a grim challenge. Once again, hunger is expected to be much worse than last year due to drought. A severe fuel shortage severely hampered our work - though it didn’t directly affect those living in mud huts, the resultant soaring food and commodity prices did. Delays in water distribution improvement, political upheaval, poor electricity supply, and extreme weather all add pressure to an already stressed and disadvantaged society.
Aid Africa/Open Hand Projects is still making significant strides in helping the vulnerable in the rural areas of Malawi—empowering the able-bodied towards self-sufficiency and alleviating the effects of acute poverty for the frail and marginalised.......
Report of Malawi trip - Mar/May 2012
Last year’s Food Programme that finished in March this year was highly successful. Many hundreds assessed “at risk” were given maize each month during the hunger period (from Christmas to harvest). This April, we bought in a further 15 tonnes of maize — even more than last year — despite the price increasing by a third, and the milling price doubling. 200 of the 300 bags have been milled to release the bran for goat mix, with the rest undergoing the laborious process of milling, drying, winnowing, measuring moisture content, and packing into our special plastic bags to suffocate the weevils that would otherwise destroy the grain. Our storeroom is now packed with prepared and protected maize mostly to distribute from Christmas onwards, but some will also help those vulnerable and hungry in the meantime.
Our plans? Later this year we aim to set up demo plots around the communities so locals can watch both the process and progress of conservation farming. Composting is the key—if groups successfully construct a 2mx2mx2m heap, it will show their commitment to the programme so we’ll send out teams to help them prepare a larger plot on their community garden site ready for the rains in November. We’ll also provide OPV seeds, for both the FGW community gardens and the general ones—the volunteers of which will be invited to train in FGW techniques next year.
But any new programme challenges the traditional mindset of local communities so working through Village Heads, we invited volunteers to join us for training in FGW. For seven weeks we projected the FGW DVD’s onto the wall of the Training Hall. The first week there were over 40 participants and as the power was off, we all gathered around a laptop screen till the battery ran out, but as much of the training was on composting, our heaps outside the Hall provided a brilliant visual aid!
For several seasons we have been trialling the acclaimed conservation farming programme : Farming God’s Way.
This year’s results of the same-size maize trial plots were amazing:-
A FGW plot = 25kgs of maize, vs planted in traditional ridged format = 6kgs.
Numbers grew and in the end 140 people had seen part or all of the training course, averaging at 60 per session. Each session was accompanied by practical demonstration of composting, preparing ground, inputs, planting seed, thinning, weeding etc. Unfortunately the Course is in English so we’re looking forward to the arrival of the Chichewa version later in the year, as having to pause every minute or two for translation is tedious and disruptive to the core subject.
Needing more land for forage and moringa, we bought a new plot in Makhonja in April. This is excellent ground—50m x 55m – level, with no stones (!) in a good location for demonstrating FGW, and easily accessible by the BUV for bringing in tools, personnel, materials, even water when necessary! We’ll lend part to our AIDS support group as a Community Garden this year, and help them plant it FGW style, with all produce being shared between their frailest members.
After careful consideration, we’ve turned our main site over to primarily growing forage for our animals, and moringa to process into a nutritional food supplement.
We brought in extra workers for several months to help clear ground from huge quantities of stones, weeds, and buried building rubble in our mission to utilise every inch of land. Using agro-forestry techniques, we’ll also grow nitrate-laden soya and legumes alley-style, including dual-purpose crops for both the hungry, and as quality animal food.
Many around us are vulnerable and will become increasingly hungry as maize supplies dwindle. Mustard is a popular vegetable which we grow to give to our needy neighbours.
150 vulnerable families received mustard
before we left.
Preparing mustard for distribution
This is page 1 of summer update 2012