Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Visualizing the harvest

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 Second, we will keep up to 250 kgs of maize per farmer to be withdrawn in lean times, or should there be no need of it, sold at a higher price later in the year.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

Can YOU help us get to the garden?

Over the next 2 years every organization in Malawi can be trained and supported with YOUR help!   Is this email not displaying correctly?
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Can You Help Us Get To The Garden?


We Need to raise $35K for a MINIBUS.  With YOUR help every organization working in Malawi can be brought to the garden for training over the next two years.  Your Donation Matters! Donate Now!

Hands on Training
At the demonstration garden visitors learn the best practices for agriculture.  We teach planting, irrigation, farm management, conservation, community development, and so much more!

Help at Home

Africa Windmill Project continues to provide training at the farmer's - organization's gardens. This site specific training is essential for success.

Ready to Learn

Farmers - Organizations are eager to learn.  They have been without food and understand how essential gardening is to their health, their life, and their nation.

Your Donation Matters! 

Help us END HUNGER by teaching families how to GROW FOOD!
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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Recent Visitors at the Demo Garden

The Horticultural Development Association of Malawi visited the demo garden today. They have offered to provide additional training at Nasala to assist the farmers with crop management and diversification.
Their expertise will be greatly appreciated. Farmers at Nasala will be able to improve the quality of their tomatoes to access better markets.

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

Continued Training at Nasala

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.

After setting up the pump, we worked with the farmers on disease control in their tomato gardens. Blight is a common fungal disease that afflicts tomatoes and potatoes. The common solution is heavy spraying with fungicide. While this may help the tomato harvest, it is expensive and poses some health risks.

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.
Then we proceeded to the second group of farmers at Nasala, where we showed them how to use the pump with a flat pipe.
 And then helped them to transplant onions with good spacing and garden layout.

 We demonstrated how to incorporate their manure and compost into the soil before transplanting.

 After applying manure/compost, the bed is watered in preparation for the seedlings.
Onion seedlings are planted in a grid at 5 inch spacing to maximize plant population density. With this spacing they will achieve a population of about 30,000 onions per acre. At 30 onions to the dollar wholesale, that's $1,000 gross per acre. A poor plant spacing could halve that amount.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

HIV and Subsistence Farming

Subsistence farming is a tough racket. If you need food, you plant some seeds, and 2-3 months later, there's your dinner. This is reality for many people. A gap in food supply can be disastrous. And if on top of this reality a farmer is battling illness, the need for nutritious food and the struggle to produce it form a double edged sword that cuts both ways. For a person with HIV, the need for food is so much greater: more calories to maintain weight, and more nutrients to maintain health. Yet it becomes increasingly difficult to grow even what was previously sufficient.

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.
Still the challenges persist. All too often, funerals interrupt farming for days at a time. Medical needs trump farm inputs when it comes to spending household income. Fertilizer is difficult to come by. In the photo below, farmers pose in front of a tomato nursery between several compost heaps. The compost will reduce the fertilizer needs to half, without reducing yield.

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.