A group of women in Chapananga, Chikwawa, have embraced irrigation to beat hunger caused by prolonged dry spells that occured last growing season.
Farmers in Malawi mostly rely on rains. Due to the disruptive drought, many in the hilly setting in Chikwawa West did not yield enough to take them to the next harvest.
The district experienced dry spells between January and February—and women remain disproportionately affected by the worsening struggles to source food for their families as grain prices keep rising.
Every day, Malita Maere peddles a treadle pump with all her might, hoping the green maize crop will save her family from hunger, which kicks in with fury in the rainy months between October and March.
In an interview during a visit to the rural territory of Traditional Authority Chapananga, the farmer committed not to relent in harnessing irrigation to beat chronic food insecurity.
Speaking in the scorching heat typical of the Shire Valley, she said: “The sun is high in the sky, but we can’t feel any heat because our life depends on this. Irrigation is our only way out of worsening starvation haunting us.
“This is the reason we are here, tirelessly pumping water from a dam to water our maize fields. Soon, we will have enough food.”
The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee reports that about 1. 5million require food aid, half the count announced last year.
For years, communities in Chikwawa have been struggling to beat hunger due to overreliance on rain-fed agriculture which is prone to drought, heat waves and floods.
In 2019, the Catholic Development Commission (Cadecom), through the Climate Challenge Project in Malawi, drilled the communities in climate-smart farming strategies for resilient livelihoods, improved livelihoods and enhanced incomes as climate-related weather shocks become more frequent and severe.
“Previously, when catastrophes hit the district, we were expecting relief food from government and its partners. However, the adaptation and mitigation skills shared by Cadecom have strengthened us to face the challenges head-on,” says Nancy Jere.
The group of 11 women and four men is expected to share the proceeds of their irrigated maize to enhance their livelihoods.
“We intend to sell the maize while it is fresh because green cobs attract good prices, as we have noted in the past years,” Jere says.
Chikwawa West legislator Susan Dossi said the group’s zeal is crucial to make hunger history amid climate change.
“When the dry spells happened, I promised to give them farm inputs for winter cropping, but it didn’t materialise. I am happy that through their efforts, they are confronting hunger,” says the legislator.
Cadecom programmes coordinator Aaron Ntaya said the climate challenge programme seeks to help rural communities improve their livelihoods and live strong amid effects of climate change.
“It’s impressive that communities are investing in irrigation to overcome low yield caused by this year’s dry spells ,” he says.
Cadecom is implementing the project in Chikwawa, Zomba, Machinga and Balaka with financial support from the Scottish Government through Trocaire, an Irish charity which strives to overcome poverty and social injustice.