As FRB’s Malawi-Kasungu-Mzimba program draws to a close, a report marks the program’s success and indicates that lives and livelihoods have been strengthened with training and support. In one of the world’s least-developed countries (171 out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index), farmers have had to face such challenges as declining soil fertility, plant and soil diseases and pests, lack of access to water, and the high risks of depending on one crop (maize) for survival.
The program’s focus has been on expanding and strengthening agricultural-based livelihoods through the introduction of crop diversification and appropriate agricultural production techniques like conservation farming. Promoting small ag business development, marketing skills, farmer associations, and access to loans through local Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) has led to the economic empowerment of women and families like these:
Mr. & Mrs. Banda have been able to send their five children to school thanks to their work multiplying and selling NUA bean seed, fortified with zinc and iron. After a successful orientation in seed multiplication, the Bandas were entrusted with 50kg of bean seed from which they produced 414kg. They paid back 276kg to the program as per agreement and sold the remainder (138kgs) to the program. Since they adopted seed multiplication as a practice the family has been producing and selling the seed to other farmers and organizations. Mr. Banda reports, “Before the project we were struggling to get seeds. The yields were very low because of poor seed quality. We have appreciated the importance of growing different types of crops, especially beans, with appropriate farm technologies.”
The income and new skills mean the family has been able to buy other farm inputs and become more food secure, which is having a great impact on their children’s futures. Says Mrs. Banda, “Caring for our children is easier now, and the older ones are studying plumbing and nursing.”
When her husband died in 1994, Mrs. Halliet, 54, had difficulty caring for their five children, and the family experienced great poverty for many years. Her life was transformed completely after she joined a SILC group in May of 2011. She took advantage of every farming, savings, and business training opportunity offered, and appreciated the encouragement of her group members to save as much money as she could. By December of that year she had enough money to open a small business, which has thrived. She has built a new home complete with a metal roof, a great improvement over her old thatched-roof house. Through Mrs. Halliet’s combined efforts in agriculture and small-scale business, her family is now food secure.
Foods Resource Bank’s Malawi-Kasungu Mzimba program is led by Catholic Relief Services and local partner Catholic Development Commission (CADECOM). Malawi-Kasungu Mzimba encompasses 242 communities, 4770 households and 23,850 individuals.