Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Continuous Harvest


Farmers know that one growing season, dependent on rainfall alone, is not enough to ensure they will have plenty of food to eat and income to spare. The adopted solution is irrigation to bring in a second growing season. But how about a third growing season? Sounds good and many at Ngwangwa are already at three seasons per year.

But some farmers are going a step further: staggered planting. In this method, farmers will divide their plot into as many as 12 sections - 1 for each month - and plant at equal intervals so that there is always a crop to plant, a crop to manage, and a crop to harvest. This works best for vegetables that have a short shelf life and a long harvesting period. With leafy greens like mustard and rape, farmers who stagger their crops can have a continuous harvest all year long.

One farmer using this method grows vegetables in intervals of 3-4 weeks. He has been selling vegetables worth $30 per week for the past 3 months, while having plenty of greens on his family's plates too. Shortening the intervals between planting is one of the strategies AWP looks for to determine the sustainability of the farms.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Public Policy Makers Visit Ngwangwa Irrigation Project

On Thursday, Hon. Dr. Jessie Kabwila, MP, toured the Ngwangwa Irrigation Project with two Ugandan lawmakers and members of the National Commission for Science and Technology in an effort to gain understanding of how to fight poverty through irrigation. The AWP staff shared our experiences and advised the parliamentarians on policies that would be beneficial to rural farmers who comprise 85% of the population of Malawi.

The visiting Ugandan MPs commended AWP and the local government extension workers for collaborating to help the communities. Hon. Kabwila, who is the chairman of the Women's Caucus, believed the success of the project is a result of the inclusion of a majority of women farmers, many of them widows and single mothers.

AWP implored parliament to enact policies that would promote security and investment in rural areas. Farmers addressed the delegation with their concerns, noting the challenge of raising capital to invest in their farms.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Bunch of Updates

Farmers finish harvesting their rainy season crops in late May or early June. Irrigation typically ramps up as the farmers' time becomes more available. We have several projects that are in full swing now.

Ngwangwa Irrigation Project
Farmers have planted maize to practice new irrigation and crop husbandry skills. This project will provide supplemental food and income to over 800 families.

Farmers who completed the training program last year are now employing the skills and strategies learnt. Farmers who demonstrate high potential are encouraged to join clubs and form an irrigation association. The base of the club is a new demonstration site at Ngwangwa. Here we are advising them on water tank construction.

Mziza Food Security Project
Food security at Mziza has been strengthened by AWP through irrigation, management training and a micro-loan facility. Production is now robust and resilient. This year farmers have harvested over 35 bags per acre, a yield worth $525 on an investment of just $100. Other farmers in Lilongwe District (such as at Ngwangwa) have yielded much less due to erratic rainfall.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

3.5 Acres of Grain

Progress is being made at our training sites in Lilongwe. These farmers have planted 3.5 acres of maize. which will yield approximately 8,000 lbs of grain. This will meet the food requirement of their families long enough to fend off hunger during the leanest months later this year.
 Two weeks ago in the same garden:

Not far away, another irrigation club is preparing to construct a water tank that will help them irrigate more land with less time and effort. The tank will hold over 20,000 liters, or 5,400 gallons.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Early Harvesting for Irrigation Farmers

The early planting method is paying off. We harvested approximately 1,500 lbs of grain in late March through early April, just from our demonstration garden. Other farmers who used the method are busy harvesting. For them, the harvesting season will stretch from March through June. Then the first irrigated crops after the rains will be ready in June or July. As we close the gaps in food production, year-round harvesting is becoming a reality.

These techniques are only available to irrigation farmers. Others rely exclusively on rainfall to water their crops, which is a vulnerable method of farming. That's why creating inexpensive irrigation pumps, and training farmers to use them, is so important. There really needs to be nonstop harvesting to not just produce sufficient amounts of food, but also to mitigate any emergencies that affect yields.

Monday, April 4, 2016


In partnership with the Ngwangwa Agriculture Extension office, AWP is training 1,000 farmers how to grow enough food throughout the year. The farmers are now planting maize to put their skills to use.

We teach them how to layout their gardens using string to get a straight and even grid. This ensures that each plant has the right amount of space to grow. They plant using sticks to measure the distance between seeds and the depth. They apply manure and fertilizer before planting to give their crops the best start possible. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Partnering with Local Development

Many development projects fail because the target communities do not adopt them. Often this can be averted by simple, inexpensive consultations with the community members and the leadership. We have to consider the local customs, environment, and resources, as well as the interests and goals of the people. 
 Last week we began consulting with the Ngabu Area Development Committee (ADC), which is a group of local residents who advice the chiefs and communities on development issues. The ADC helped us to identify groups of farmers who could participate in focus group discussions. The overall purpose of the engagement is for us to develop a clear idea of the problems facing their community, and then to create a possible solution together with them.
When we asked the ADC what farmers worry about when they first wake up in the morning, the response was a clear "FOOD!". They believe that climate change is the cause of the current food shortage, siting droughts and floods that destroyed crops last year. This year is not looking much better, with most of the area in drought conditions.

We will continue working with the community to develop a way for them to have food throughout the year. The largest river in Malawi is just a few kilometers from where the meeting took place. There must be a way to get that water to the crops so that people will always have food.