Malawi  is a small landlocked country in southeast Africa bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. It is one of the least developed countries in the world with corruption, poverty and the high rate of HIV/AIDS continuing to hamper development efforts. Most Malawians rely on subsistence farming, but its single major natural resource – agricultural land – is under severe pressure from rapid population growth. The country is also prone to natural disasters of both extremes – from droughts to floods – putting it in constant need of food aid every year. Malawi has a low life expectancy and high infant mortality. The high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Malawi kill tens of thousands of Malawians every year and is a drain on the labor force and government expenditures. After years of silence, the authorities spoke out about the crisis. A program to tackle HIV/AIDS was launched in 2004, with President Muluzi revealing that his brother had died from the disease.


Global Concern in Malawi:

Food Security Project

Project Background: In 2002, a disastrous famine hit Malawi killing thousands of people and leaving the country with an ongoing food crisis. Global Concern provided funds for emergency relief at the time. From that point on, Global Concern set up a food security project in northern Malawi so that the people would be less dependent on food prices and more self sufficient. The project began to train the local village people to farm using modern farming techniques and irrigation methods. Ploughs, hoes, seeds, fertilizers and treadle pumps were made available to select farmers who were trained on demonstration plots. These farmers then went back to their own villages to train others in these techniques as well as using them for their own farming. The project has since expanded to provide nutritional training as well as education on HIV/AIDS, malaria and water.

Project Description: The project focuses on three key areas:

1. Farming and agriculture – this part of the project involves training farmers in modern conservation farming methods and diversified agriculture production. Conservation farming techniques such as organic compost production, water conservation through irrigation, tree planting for soil management and conservation tillage help to protect the quality of the soil and increase the fertility of the land. Diversified agriculture production allows farmers to produce more crop varieties and maintain crop rotation so that their land continues to be productive. Non-traditional crops and fruits such as peanuts soybeans and bananas are introduced for plantation alongside local crops such as maize and cassava. The project also runs a chicken farming program where the eggs are distributed to community members for chicken raising.

Local women learning how to make scones

2. Nutrition – this aspect of the project involves education and awareness on the benefits of highly nutritious non-traditional food groups such as soy and groundnuts and how to incorporate them into the daily diets of the local people. Prior to the project, many locals did not know how to take advantage of these nutritious foods; now as a result of the project, locals have learnt how to make delicious new products such as soy milk, cow pea fritters, banana sauce, scones and cakes to provide their families with more foods and better nutrition.

3. Health – this aspect of the project focuses on health education on HIV/AIDS, malaria and water and sanitation. On HIV/AIDS, Global Concern workers visit the local communities to establish support groups for HIV/AIDS victims, encourage the use of testing centres, educate against the stigma surrounding the disease and teach young people on methods of prevention and care. On Malaria, Global Concern distributes mosquito nets and trains the communities on methods of prevention of a disease that is one of the highest killers of children in the country. On water and sanitation, Global Concern builds new wells and showers throughout the communities to improve access to fresh drinking water and sanitation facilities.

Some statistics: After 10 years of working with local communities in the Global Concern food security project, our farmers are bringing in harvests 10 times greater than before, malaria cases have dropped by 30%, diarrhoea by 65% and cases of malnourished children by 90%. Global Concern is therefore making a significant and lasting impact on the poor rural communities of northern Malawi.

90%………. the percentage decrease of malnourished children in the communities we worked from 2006-2009

30%………. the percentage decrease of malaria cases in the communities we worked from 2006-2009

65%………. the percentage decrease of diarrhea cases  in the communities we worked from 2006-2009

75…………. the number of pit latrines built between 2006-2009

979……….. the number of showers built between 2006-2009

3…..………. the average number of meals per day our villagers are now consuming

Mary Komandani (beneficiary) with her maize crops

Story: ‘The project encouraged us to plant our crops together as a community to make it easier for training and education in our fields. It was difficult to transport the manure to the new fields but my crops here are doing better than the ones I have outside my home. Planting our crops together as a community has also encouraged healthy competition between farmers in applying the new techniques we are being taught. I personally believe my fields are ranked around number 2 in the competition (Mary laughs modestly).’

Mary Komandani – Kayera Village

For more stories and information on the Malawi Food Security Project, watch our videos on Malawi.

What is still needed: Current funding for this project is provided by Global Concern supporters and by DFAT. Individual donors can support this project by purchasing a mosquito net for a family ($10), build a well for a community ($550) or construct a pit latrine ($250) to improve the lives of our underprivileged villagers in northern Malawi.