Author: Duncan Marsh, Director of Programmes, Pump Aid.
6.5 million people or over one third of Malawi’s population is now considered ‘food insecure’. This means that millions of families in Malawi’s predominantly rural population will be unable to provide themselves with enough food. Over the coming months this will lead to widespread malnutrition and starvation.
This situation has come about because over the last two years harvests have been badly affected by erratic rainfall patterns. Drought in some areas and flooding in others, destroying crops and forcing up prices of basic foodstuffs. The underlying causes for this are complex, but have their root in the basic fact that over 80% of Malawi’s mainly rural population is solely dependent on rain fed agriculture. So when the rains fail so does the food. The Government of Malawi has responded with a plan and is asking donors to contribute to immediate food needs and some of the underlying causes.
At Pump Aid, our mission is to provide safe water to poor populations, those most at risk from the current food insecurity. We will be intensifying our efforts to install and maintain community pumps, especially those at schools to ensure children are still able to attend.
But we want to make sure that our response is not just a short term fix. Access to water for simple irrigation is crucial in the current situation, but in the longer term irrigation is one of the simple interventions that can shift populations to self reliance. Pump Aid is now rolling out a programme of low cost pumps designed for irrigation on small scale farms. Irrigation from shallow wells together with training on farming conservation and ‘water smart’ techniques will help rural Malawians compensate for erratic rain fall during the main growing season and provide the opportunity for a second harvest each year. Giving families enough to eat and any excess they produce they can sell. This would represent a massive shift from the country’s current overwhelming dependency on food aid.