A multipurpose dam the Elimination of Child Labour in Tobacco (ECLT) Foundation constructed in Chipwaira Village in the central Malawi district of Kasungu has become the lifeblood of the area.
People from Chipwaira and surrounding villages of Lambulira, Mundengwe, Chisi and others rely on the dam for irrigation and domestic purposes.
Hannah Evasi, a farmer in Chipwaira Village, says the dam has dramatically transformed her life and family.
â€œSince I started using the dam, my family never runs out of food,â€ says the 28-year-old farmer.
ECLT built the dam through the Integrated Child Labour Elimination Project (Iclep) which was being implemented by Total Land Care (TLC), Nkhoma Synod, Lifeline Malawi and the Creative Centre for Social Mobilisation (Creccom) in Katalima and Suza education zones in Dowa and Kasungu, respectively, before it phased out in 2011.
In the past, Evasi and other vulnerable households in the area used to run out of food in lean months of October to March.
But today, the mother of three does not only have enough for food, but also surplus for sale. She uses the proceeds to buy food supplements, clothes, soap, salt and other basic needs for her family.
Evasi is not only food secure, but she is also able to buy uniforms, books and other learning materials for her children.
Last year, she realised K90 000 (about $360) from her tomato and vegetable garden she grew with her 20-year-old cousin Eliah Evasi.
She reinvested the money in farming. But this time around, she grew groundnuts and maize and is expecting to realise not less than K350 000 (about $1 400).
Like most farmers in the area, Evasi is into maize, sweet potato, cassava, soya beans and vegetable farming.
â€œWith good crop husbandry I learnt from Total Land Care, I grow a lot of maize and vegetables such as turnips, rape and cabbage,â€ she says.
Madalitso Chikho is another farmer who has benefitted from the dam and TLCâ€™s good crop husbandry techniques.
â€œSince I adopted farming techniques Total Land Care has been teaching us, I am able to harvest 30 bags of maize from the same land that previously yielded only 10 bags,â€ says Chikho.
The dam is also a source of water for livestock. Before the dam was constructed, most children could miss classes as they were helping their parents to do manual work in tobacco estates to get money for food, clothes and other basic needs.
â€œBut that is now history as the dam, coupled with sensitisation meetings Iclep has been organising, has drastically reduced hunger and poverty which used to drive a lot of children in my area into child labour. In essence, this dam has helped to put money into peopleâ€™s pockets, especially farmers doing irrigation farming,â€ says group village head Chipwaira.
The idea behind the construction of the dam was to create an economically-viable community that will be food-sufficient, poverty-free; hence see no need of sending children to work in tobacco estates [instead of going to school] to supplement family incomes.
The dam consumed K1.8 million (about $7 200) and is catering for 108 households in eight villages in the area.