To help those at risk, Aid Africa/OHP buys in
maize at harvest when it’s readily available, and
at its cheapest, to store for the “hunger months”
Christmas to March, when food is most scarce.
In the past we’ve tried to grow enough, but have
proven it’s more reliable and economical
to buy it in
Having acquired 15 tonnes of maize (2012), we rented a maize mill for two weeks, and the whole process:- buying, milling, transporting back to our Centre, drying, measuring moisture content, weighing & packing takes 3-4 men more than 6 hard weeks to complete.
We use special bags to protect grain from the invasive weevils, endemic in this area. These bags have triple skins, preventing any air transfer, so actually suffocate the weevils without the need for traditional toxic chemicals.
Distribution of maize begins at Christmas each year. Hundreds assessed as most vulnerable and at greatest risk, benefit. Many others are helped too with token amounts. The maize stored would provide the basis for about 50,000 meals.
Working against hunger ....
Our site in Chiringa, set amid the foothills of Mt Mulanje,
with the inevitable poor soil, is in the process of setting
high standards of productivity and best practice.
We choose to be fertiliser-free as local subsistence farmers
could never afford expensive chemicals, and we aim to train and encourage them into much higher crop yields. We do this by focusing on soil, and its improvement, and are training in a well-proven agricultural scheme -“Farming God’s Way”.
Our gardens produce vegetables:- mustard, chinese cabbage, soya, tomatoes, onions, peas, cassava, amaranthus (local indigenous crop), rape, and animal food
An elderly widow receives mustard
grown in our
This initiative, particularly successful in the tropics, discourages tilling, promotes the manufacture and use of compost, requires specific planting and care patterns, and advocates blanketing the soil with layers of humus - thus minimising soil erosion, increasing water retention, and charging the soil with valuable nutrients and structure.
Hunger is the No.1 challenge in the remote areas of southern Malawi.
90% of our neighbours are subsistence farmers - working hard in their barren fields trying to feed their families, but if you’re elderly, sick or disabled and can’t dig, just survival is a daily challenge. There’s no welfare, no benefits, no help, so the vulnerable suffer.
WE PLANT TWO KINDS OF “GARDENS”
depending on water availability
RAIN-FED: planted in November with the annual rains. These are larger fields, often way out in the Bush. Here we plant maize or sorghum - the staple dietary crop, and legumes (red beans, soya or pigeon peas) to fix nitrates back into the soil.
IRRIGATION: planted in winter (Apr/Jun), harvested July/Oct - usually vegetables, but sometimes maize if enough moisture is still present in the soil or there is adequate water close-by.
Volunteers grow, harvest and distribute to the vulnerable.
WATER is a major challenge -
Malawi has just 1 rainy season a year - usually from November to about February - then little else for 9 months.
If this fails, then local food resources also fail. This has been the case for many years
Breeding rabbits to distribute into the community for fast food for the particularly vulnerable, can also become a micro-business for them.
We had been raising chickens as improver stock for local farmers, but the outcome proved poor so stock was eventually given away to the needy.
Since 2009, we’ve been growing moringa. Nutritionally it’s amazing!
Its leaves contain high levels of vitamins, calcium, protein, minerals, and iron, and its seeds are rich in oil.
It’s fast growing, allegedly drought resistant when established and excellent for water purification — no wonder it’s dubbed
“The Miracle Tree”.
Monthly distribution takes place 3 times - at Christmas, mid- January and mid-February.
We have also supplied a nursery school in the remote areas with maize all year round for the children’s lunch - it might be the only meal these children have that day.
The next maize harvest is due in March - its success depends largely on the volatile climate - the twin extremes of drought and flooding in the abrupt rainy season often cause crop destruction in many areas.