Saturday, April 28, 2012

Developing an Irrigation Site

Identify a nice site for an irrigated garden:

Bring supplies to the site: bricks, stones, sand, cement, tools, etc. This gentleman is breaking stones with an 8-lbs hammer:

Lay a circular slab:

Build the tank walls:

Plaster inside and out:

Install water pump:

Pump and tank complete, focus is shifted to water distribution and crop management:

Farm Budgeting and Planning

Achieving food security requires more than crop management and irrigation. Farm Budgeting and Planning is the foundation upon which all farm activities are based. Without a budget and a plan, a good harvest is not sufficient for security; a host of factors can prevent or destroy a good harvest, in the field or in storage.

Farmers need to schedule their farm activities to maintain a balanced diet year round. Staples are harvested at the end of the rainy season. But what if the yield is not enough? How much is enough anyway? And what about nutritious fresh vegetables, animal fats and proteins, and special foods for sudden illnesses?

Below are some pictures from a training we held to equip and encourage farmers to begin budgeting and planning.

Jafet (Mziza Farming Club chairman) leads a small group:

Men and women were separated for some parts of the training to encourage full participation:

Blessings Malamba leads the men's group:


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In Malawi 2012 Food Security will be Critical

“Field observations in southern Malawi suggest that crop production will be poor compared to the past four years due to erratic rains. In some areas, there are concerns that households may not realize any crop harvest at all.”

From Malawi Country Director Christopher Adare:
We are currently focusing on food security in our participating villages, given the insufficient harvest that is expected. We are trying to ensure that farmers don't wait until they run out of maize to start thinking of irrigation farming. Our emphasis is on integrating the food produced by irrigation into the diet as soon as possible, so the rainy season crop that did produce some harvest will last longer. The key element of this strategy is growing starches with the irrigation; such as fresh maize, cassava, sweet potato, potato, yams, and beans. These would take the place of one meal of nsima (maize porridge) a day, so the maize lasts twice as long through the year. If farmers want to sell maize for income, they are being encouraged to wait and sell later in the dry season when they are sure they have enough food and the price is higher.

We held a meeting for the entire village with the chiefs at Mziza to give them an overview of this strategy. Many took that meeting to heart and have already planted sweet potatoes. We stand a good chance of getting the farms to a position where the light harvest this past rainy season will have no effect on their nutrition. This is exactly what Africa Windmill Project has set out to do in the beginning and has been building towards the past few years. The real results will come around the next rainfall in December when food is traditionally scarce. Let's pray that the farmers do a good job this year, and don't suffer from this season’s erratic rain.

-Chris Adare 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pedal pump irrigation

Blessings Malamba cycles a pedal pump, filling a large water tank. Water from the tank is applied to the garden in the background.

Using this system a single farmer can irrigate up to one acre in only a few hours.

What if YOU ran out food?

Imagine you open your kitchen cupboard today and find just one bowl of cereal, one serving of spaghetti, and one teaspoon of sugar. What would you do? Buy some more, right? Borrow from the neighbour... Would you wait for tomorrow? Probably not.

Now suppose your neighbour also has only one day's food, the corner grocery is empty, and the mega-super grocery chain is stocked with things you could afford to eat once a year on Christmas or Easter.

You would know then that you are insecure... If you can imagine what that would be like, or if you have experienced it, you would be heartbroken and hopeless. That's a yearly, if not daily, feeling for many Malawians.

But it doesn't have to be! Farmers we work with have started to realize this. And their starting point is to grow more food before their cupboards are bare. Malawians depend heavily on maize to provide starch and calories in their diet. If they run out of maize before the next harvest, it is very difficult to produce enough calories to make up the difference. Households that plan and know their maize will not last at their current consumption can include a variety of foods in their diets now that will help their maize stock last longer.

By supplementing their maize diet with sweet potato, cassava, potato, beans, yams, and fresh vegetables, Malawians get a more balanced diet and stretch a light maize harvest over the whole year. Doing this, they may begin to see benefits of a healthy diet today, while also avoiding hunger later on.

This was the message AWP brought up during a group-village meeting of community leaders and chiefs at Mziza last month.

Currently, 90% of AWP club members and 75% of the broader community have planted sweet potatoes on irrigation. Many farmers have gone even farther. This community stands a good chance of avoiding hunger this year despite the expected poor maize harvest. They are being proactive, planting supplemental crops before harvesting maize!

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