Eton Misiti, a farmer in Thyolo, happily tends to an irrigated plot where he grows maize, beans, Irish potatoes, tomatoes and onions.
For the first time in his life, the 49-year-old man gets three harvests a year instead of just relying on unpredictable rains.
He has already sold part of the first harvest at K200 000.
This marks a big shift from working for slavish pay in fields of well-off neighbours while losing his neglected crop to prolonged dry spells and armyworms.
Thanks to the irrigation scheme supported by the Canaan Home of Malawi (Cahoma), his family eats three meals a day though rural livelihoods, food security and economic gains have been hit hard by climate change.
Malawians are hit harder due to lack of financial muscle to safeguard their gains.
The Climate Change Index 2020 shows that Malawi loses 65 percent of its gross domestic product due to effects of climate change. This is a call to strong partnerships that harness collaboration, skills and competencies of all stakeholders to improve food security.
Nearly 2.6 million Malawians needed food aid to overcome hunger before the ongoing harvest, reports the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee.
This calls for innovative interventions that empower vulnerable households to achieve food security and end hunger by 2030, the deadline of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Southern Africa is among the zones worst hit by extreme weather and economic shocks worsened by climate change.
Dry spells, drought and flooding have become more frequent and devastating in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, which suffered severe impacts of Cyclone Idai, El Nino and fall armyworms in the past half-decade. These disasters affect agriculture, the employer of eight in every 10 Malawians.
Despite massive subsidy for farm inputs, pockets of food insecurity persist. For many subsistence farmers, the lean season kicks in from October to March.
With most of its population dependent on farming, disasters associated with climate change fuel malnutrition and hunger.
Opdracht (Mission) in Africa (OiA) is working with partners in Malawi, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Eswatini to overcome hunger and poverty. The development initiatives include monetary relief, irrigation schemes, daycare programmes, disaster risk reduction, home-based care and sponsorships for needy children.
Misiti is one of the farmers reaping the benefits of the regional intervention spearheaded by Evangelical Brethren Church (EBC) through its development wing Cahoma in Malawi.
OiA promotes result-based management to spur a self-help approach as the cornerstone of partnerships for sustainable development programmes.
Jos Joosse, irrigation expert and partnership director, says partners in Africa should embrace innovative irrigation systems that are adaptable to their countries to achieve food security
“In this way, communities will be able to operate and maintain their levels of food production output with less influence from outsiders and will be more resilient to shocks fuelled by climate change,” he says.
Cahoma supports a 20 hectares irrigation scheme in Gomani Village, Sub-Traditional Authority Mangazi in the tea-growing district of Thyolo.
The project targets 200 vulnerable households in the area.
The scheme is helping the farmers overcome hunger and poverty highlighted by Thyolo district socio-economic profile.
Joshua Monjeza, team leader of the project, says the scheme has improved the livelihoods and incomes of the vulnerable families that grow high-value crops.
He says: “The farmers surrounding the scheme also acquired relevant skills, knowledge and new farming methods to improve management of the scheme and new technologies installed.
“Increases in crop yield in the farm scheme will improve socio-economic gains for beneficiaries and contribute to national food security.”
The implementers expect the project to reduce extreme hunger and poverty in line with SDG one and two.
The project implementers are entrenching long sustainability mechanisms for the scheme and how to make it profitable by developing the capacity of various players in the value chain and marketing.
It complements the government’s wealth creation agenda outlined in the country’s long-term economic vision called Malawi 2063.
Climate change reduces crop yield despite proper crop management.
To achieve food security, the country needs more investment should focus on the establishment of irrigation systems instead of relying on unpredictable rainfall.
The author is programme adviser for Knowledge Management at OiA in The Netherlands.