Sustainable Living in Malawi:
One of the main aims behind VMM’s mission is to strengthen resilience in communities faced by the daily challenges of living in Sub-Saharan Africa, made more difficult by the disproportionate effects of climate change, on the global south. VMM helps communities by combining their strengths to rise to these challenges through resilience building projects, helping them to improve their ability to manage emergencies such as drought and flooding. VMM Volunteer, Margaret Cleary is just back from a one year placement in Malawi with our partner organisation N4BW doing just this.
Sitima covers an area of 25 square kms of Malawi, with very limited resources in terms of secondary schools, health facilities and jobs. Most of the community of Sitima depend on their gardens for a livelihood and those with land have only a small amount. Many live below the poverty line and I am told that to have a dollar a day to live on would be a blessing.
The flooding in 2015 caused considerable damage to the crops that were in the field, which was followed by serious dry spells during the maize-growing season. Sitima found it next to impossible to recover.
Short-Term Solutions and Long-Term Plan:
N4BW, in partnership with VMM and Misean Cara, assisted the community in both 2016 and 2017 by contributing for the purchase of maize to assist those suffering from hunger especially women, students and children who daily have little or nothing to eat. However, this was only a short-term solution and a long-term plan had to be considered.
Long-term solutions are difficult. The area has no year–round water supply as all rivers dry up in the hot season, which makes winter cropping impossible because of the expensive irrigation systems required. Most farmers cannot plant outside of the four-month growing season.
Only a year-round source of water would enable continuous food production and so increase agricultural activity. Hence the Solar Power Drip Irrigation project, funded by Misean Cara through VMM.
Thirty-six women farmers living on the margins of society were selected by their community to take part in this project. By developing the business and horticulture skills of these women farmers and encouraging them to plant cash crops they are now beginning to earn surplus income which is having a major impact on the financial statue of the family. They can now save money for emergencies and they are able to grow crops all year round.
Running in parallel with the irrigation scheme are a number of other active projects such as the rent –to- buy solar lamps – with well over 200 satisfied customers. Also, the Sitima Mission started the process of renovating a much-needed dispensary that was closed for the last thirty years. Through Electric Aid Ireland we also installed a water pump in a remote area that has a number of deaths each year because of cholera.
By Margaret Cleary, VMM Volunteer