Malawi Pump Aid Water Pump Blog
Duncan Marsh crop websize

Food Crisis in Malawi Worsens

Posted on: May 25, 2016
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Hi, my name is Duncan and I’m the Director of Programmes for Pump Aid. I’ve been with Pump Aid now for two years and I feel really privileged to work for such a great organisation. Not only is what we do really practical, useful work that provides clear benefit to (some of the poorest) people in Malawi, but we have such a great team that it makes it a pleasure to come into work.

Both here in the UK where we have a small fundraising office and out in Malawi where we have a team of 50 staff, most of whom are working with communities to deliver training and support in various aspects of water and sanitation.

I spend quite a lot of time out in Malawi, working with our field managers to monitor and improve delivery, talking with donors and other organisations about how we might work better together. But also importantly speaking directly with people in the communities we work in, about what it is they want to see and how we can use our shared resources more effectively. Clean water and safe sanitation are absolute fundamentals for human development.

On a recent trip I was in an area called Mchinji, close to Zambia, where we work installing pumps and working with communities to improve hygiene and sanitation. As we drove near the border crossing we came across a long line of lorries (mostly with Zambia number plates) loaded to the brim with maize (the local staple food). As you can see from the photo, these lorries are huge. Over the past few months there have been thousands of these ‘food deliveries’ into Malawi.

Maize Trucks Mchinji March 2016

For the second year running Malawi is suffering a poor maize harvest. This spells disaster for a country where 80% of the population are rural and dependent on rain fed agriculture. Malawi can’t feed itself and so is having to import maize from Zambia and other neighbouring countries to make up some of the deficit. Many agree that the main cause is changes to weather patterns. Basically not enough rain over a sustained period to allow for farmers to grow healthy crops.

Making Malawi more food secure is a challenge. But with some low cost investment in basic shallow wells and irrigation kits, poor small scale farmers can protect their main crop from the impact of changes in rain fall and can even reap additional harvests outside of the main growing season. At Pump Aid, we’re working on such an initiative. But we’re doing so from slightly different perspective to the way we and other NGOs have worked in the past. We are training local entrepreneurs to manufacture and sell low-cost pumps and kits to local farmers on the basis that they will improve their harvests and can make money through selling surpluses. This approach means that we don’t act as an organisation giving out free resources indefinitely, but that we act to support local business and actually help to establish a market which means we are no longer needed.

My personal hope is that in future visits to Mchinji I see local farmers reaping the rewards of investments in pumps and I don’t see lines of lorries carrying food into Malawi. Not least because the scale of crop failure is worsening and now up to 50 million African’s may be facing famine this year.

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