Building HOPE for women farmers in Chikwawa

In September, I spent a few days in Chikwawa, in Malawi’s lower Shire region. My mission was to collect case studies on the current situation facing farmers before the implementation of the Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities (SE4RC) project.

Esnath WillisonDuring this process, I got to hear and witness some of the difficult situations women in the area face. Indeed women can do anything to ensure that there is food on the table to sustain their families.

Thats the story of Edith Willison, a smallholder farmer in Chikwawa. She is a single mother and she is responsible for fending for her family. Life has not been easy for her and her children. She wakes up very early every day and walks up to four kilometres to fetch water for her family’s domestic use before she goes to the fields. She grows maize, cassava and vegetables which she sells to get money to buy food and to pay for her children’s school fees and upkeep.

For the crops to grow well she uses a treadle pump to irrigate the crops. This is no easy job especially on an empty stomach given there are times when there will be nothing to eat in her house. She spends about five to six hours pedalling the treadle pump in order to water her plot.

Edith is now suffering from back pains because of all this hard work. When she gets tired from using the treadle pump, her 11 year old son Musani takes over this task.

Chikwawa-2This system of pumping water which Edith and other farmers in the area are using is not reliable. As a result, Edith had low harvests and is struggling to provide food for her children. During these hard times, she resorts to borrowing from colleagues who also do not have enough so at the end of the day the family can retire to bed with empty stomachs.

Practical Action will be introducing solar powered irrigation to farming areas in Zimbabwe and Malawi. The areas which the project will be implemented from are so poor and remote. They are not connected from the national electricity grid and unlikely to ever be connected because of their remoteness. Even if they were, the cost of the electricity would be exorbitant. However, using the abundant, free resource of the sun for solar voltaic panels to power pumps, water can be drawn from significantly deeper depths than a treadle pump. Instead of spending up to six to seven hours incessant pumping to irrigate their farms per day, Edith and other women can be using this valuable time to do other things like household chores, start small businesses, and attend to their children. Furthermore children can also attend school. With this technology the farmers can be sure of a viable and consistent supply of water for their crops.

2 responses to “Building HOPE for women farmers in Chikwawa”

  1. Silas Irea Says:

    Dear Practical Action,

    My firm and I are impressed with your efforts to help people get out of poverty and take charge of their lives. As a show of solidarity and support for what you are doing in Malawi, Kenya and other parts of Africa, I am authorized to pledge 10% of any fees earned from any work that we do for you as our contribution to your efforts. Our services are project management, baseline surveys, setting up M&E frameworks, conducting evaluations and training. We have evaluated some of your projects in northern Kenya in the past.

    With our best regards,

    Silas Irea
    for and on behalf of Publix (Africa) Ltd.

  2. Martha Munyoro Katsi Says:

    Thank you so much for your favourable response. We really appreciate your kindness and generosity in trying to help in the work that we are doing in the fight against poverty. I will be in touch with you via email for more information. Once again, on behalf of all Practical Action staff we say thank you.

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