It is hot and the land is parched. In the last three years, his rural village in the south has experienced flash flooding, locusts, armyworms, and drought. Each year there is something that makes it difficult for the 61-year-old man to feed his family through farming.
During the dry season, temperatures in Malawi reach over 100 degrees. Finding water is a challenge, and Pa Fwambi and other villagers must walk to distant wells or dig in the dry riverbed to collect water. When they dig into the river, they can tap into underground aquifers to get water — one bucket at a time. At this rate, Pa Fwambi can only manage to cultivate a 6 x 8 meter plot of land, which he waters by hand. The garden does not produce enough food for his family. Last year World Renew and its Malawi partner, Eagles Relief and Development, distributed food during the drought. But these responses only address immediate needs.
So, nine months ago, World Renew, Eagles Relief, and village leaders started talking about a more sustainable solution for people like Pa Fwambi, who depend on farming amidst the harsh realities of relentless heat, unhealthy soil, pests, lack of water, and changing weather patterns. People cannot afford to move away.
We embarked on a pilot project, attempting to irrigate a dried river bed, demonstrate practices that can restore soil health, and introduce crops that can grow in sandy soil and under hot sun. We have had a lot of hiccups along the way. Goats repeatedly broke through a fence and ate what was planted. The sun killed some of the plants. People didn’t follow planting recommendations, so plants were attacked by pests.
In May, I took an agronomist and an irrigation specialist down to Chikwawa to try to re-group. We were pleasantly surprised by what we found. Pa Fwambi showed us what he has been up to. During World Renew training, he realized the importance of compost making and mulching. He told us that he only waters his garden once a week now because of the amount of mulch he has used to protect his plants. Because he now uses a treadle pump, he no longer needs to water his garden by hand. He expanded his 6 x 8 meter plot to over 50 x 50 square meters! He gathered and bought seeds from local farmers and has planted tomatoes, sweet potato, cowpeas, and other vegetables. He now has enough food for his family and plans to sell the rest for income.
What Pa Fwambi was able to do has encouraged the other farmers of the project because it shows them what is possible.
We now have 48 households busy preparing their land for planting. We have built a dam so that families can store water as the rainy season comes to an end.
We still don’t know if there will be enough water in 5 or 6 months, so please continue to pray for these 48 families. Pray that the water will be abundant. Pray that pests will not destroy their hard work. And pray that families will be able to harvest enough so that they will not go hungry again in the dry season.
World Renew Malawi