Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Harvest season. In Malawi, the national mood follows the farming cycle. When we hunger, we become depressed. When we harvest, we rejoice. However for many people, the harvest foretells of the coming hunger. Behind the smiles and festivities, there is the cold reality that the harvest was not enough, and there may be no opportunity to add to it. That's of course where irrigation comes in, allowing families to increase their harvest throughout the year.
But there are other ways of making the rainy season harvest last longer. Storing maize is an important step in achieving food security. This year farmers will be storing maize with AWP. The storage is divided into two parts. First, we will keep 500 kgs of maize per farmer to be sold toward the purchase of next year's seeds, fertilizer, and other inputs. Second, we will keep up to 250 kgs of maize per farmer to be withdrawn in lean times, or should there be no need of it, sold at a higher price later in the year.
On one tarp, there is enough corn for a small family - for the whole year: 650 kgs, or about 2.1 million calories. The peanuts on the other tarp would take care of a large portion of the fat and protein requirement for the same family. Supplementary beans, vegetables, fruit, eggs, and occasionally goat or chicken, would round out the basic diet. The corn and peanuts are grown on 1.5 acres, while the other crops can be produced on a quarter acre irrigated garden.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
We also toured some gardens at Mziza where we saw the progress of new club members for the first time. While they have done well, they have a long way to go. We hope they will keep up the hard work!
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
At last, after much preparation, irrigation season begins! We were at Nasala today setting up a hand pump with a fire-hose-style pipe for distribution. These farmers were very please that their hand pumps could use old treadle-pump pipes. This makes it easier to move the pump around and water different areas.
We train the farmers to manage blight through prevention of the spread of the fungus. This means preventing water from splashing on the leaves, rotating their crop on a 3-4 year cycle, identifying and destroying infected plants, and lastly, spraying the minimum fungicide possible. We also teach the farmers to identify blight, or potential blight, before they spray chemicals willy-nilly.
Sunday, May 4, 2014
It's like a law of nature that the struggle to grow food is proportional to how much you need it. Kids, the elderly, the sick, widows and orphans, all are more vulnerable to malnutrition, and all face greater obstacles to growing their own food.
This reality hits hard at Nasala where HIV is taking its toll on the community. Farmers have responded by relying on each other to make the work easier. Tomatoes promise a good income and provide vital vitamins in the diet. As a support group, the Nasala farmers share responsibilities of planting, watering, and harvesting the tomato plants. It's an unusual level of cooperation, born of necessity, and reaping dividends.
We work with the farmers to plan ahead, so that farm inputs are available at the right time. We provide a small loan to get the ball rolling. We also teach them how to accurately measure fertilizer to prevent waste. In this photo we demonstrated how to estimate the fertilizer requirement and measure the amount from the fertilizer loan.
We know that it means a lot to this community to receiver fertilizer. At the very least, it will make life easier for them, and in some cases it's a lifeline to get through the lean times, boost them enough to carry on taking the medicine that keeps them healthy. But it's our goal that with good cooperation and new irrigation skills, this support group will not need a lifeline or even a respite from the grueling work.