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.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Our Resilience Innovation Challenge

In December 2015, AWP was awarded a grant by the Resilient Africa Network ( to develop a prototype for irrigation in Chikwawa District of Malawi. Chikwawa is in the Southern Region of Malawi, along the Shire River Valley. The Shire River is the outlet of Lake Malawi that flows into the Zambezi River and out to the Indian Ocean through Mozambique.
River and pump house in Chikwawa
Chikwawa is an environmentally vulnerable district. Flood and droughts that periodically affect the country tend to have their biggest impact in Chikwawa. Heavy rain upstream does not benefit crops in the ground at Chikwawa, but can still result in floods that wipe out entire villages.
Defunct Irrigation - many irrigation sites in Chikwawa have gone out of use. Why and how do we prevent that?
AWP will be working with two traditional authorities (i.e. chiefdoms the size of small counties) to design new irrigation methods and technologies that are appropriate for the district. While we have our ideas, we are inviting the local communities to provide insight into the design they think will best serve them. For the next six months, we will be developing the prototype, and eventually presenting the design to the community for their feedback.
Power at the river bank. Sounds like a good place for irrigation.
If the design is successful, AWP may have the opportunity to pilot, test and scale the design.
Chikwawa District Executive Committee - collaborating with other development workers

The pump house for an electric motor pump. The site is not operational but has potential. What can we do better?

Prime for irrigation. The Shire Rive cuts through the valley.

Irrigating in the Rain

Wind blows year round - why not use it?
Malawi has a rainy season and a dry season. Unfortunately, the rainy season can sometimes be rather dry. As we train farmers in irrigation, they are looking to capitalize on the dry season for food production and income generation. Perhaps the bigger impact comes during a dry rainy season, or drought as it is usually known.
AWP Demo Garden - teaching farmers about rainy season irrigation

The 2015/2016 rainy season has provided below average rainfall for most of the country. Farmers who have irrigation skills and equipment can save their crops by covering the water deficit through pumping ground water. Because the rain still supplies most of the water, the farmers are able to irrigate larger plots than they would be able to if they had to supply the full water requirement.

After a very bad harvest last year due to low rainfall, farmers cannot afford another drought. By irrigating during the rainy season, they will be able to keep food production up to prevent the devastation of hunger and malnutrition.
Maize suffers from water-stress - drought effects

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Farmers Take On Hunger in Community

Every year around this time, Malawians are preparing their gardens to be planted at the first sign of the rainy season. Farmers in our training programmes are no different, except that's not all they are doing. Irrigation farmers are preparing to harvest at the same time they are preparing to plant. 

These pictures show the dense, deep-green fields of our newest trainees at Ngwangwa. The local Extension Office estimated a shortage of 50% after the 2015 rainy season harvest. December is half way to the next harvest, and many families are beginning to ration food, or even run out completely.

 A harvest of just 500 lbs of grain can carry a family over for 4 to 6 months when other food supplies are dwindling. Many of these farmers can expect to harvest as much as 1,000 lbs of maize from their irrigated fields.
 The farmers were trained in a strategy that would both increase their production, and ensure that the food is available when it is most needed. Irrigation is the backbone of the strategy because it allows them to grow food at any time. Irrigation provides a farmer with tools to fight hunger whenever the need arises.
 This year, AWP trained 325 farmers in irrigation and food security strategies. The farmers grew maize in response to last year's drought and low yields. Some farmers were in desperate situations following crop failures, and while they are still struggling, the situation is less grim, more hopeful. Farmers have a sense of purpose, rather than helplessness, because they have the means to respond to the food shortage. Other families are now looking to them for help.