Malawi is facing a severe food crisis with more than 6.5 million people (40% of the population) expected to be food insecure in 2016/17. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing 80% of the workforce, but is failing to produce enough food to feed Malawi.
90% of the rural population are small-scale farmers which rely entirely on rainfall for food production. Due to climate change, rainfall has become more erratic with more frequent and severe droughts, decimating food crops. With an increasing population, scarce agricultural land and severe impacts of climate change, increased irrigation is necessary for food security. Irrigation raises productivity in agriculture by at least 50%, and allows farmers to mitigate against unpredictable weather. Through irrigation, farmers can also harvest several crops in a year because water is available all year around, this also boosts their income.
Despite the vast benefits of irrigation, only 2% of farmland in Malawi is irrigated compared to 21% globally according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation. To help address this issues, Pump Aid has just launched a new programme with support from the Vibrant Village Foundation. The programme focuses on the Mchinji District in Central Malawi, which suffers from chronic food shortages. 31% of people are very poor and 35% poor. Access to water is low at 21% and the infant mortality rate is almost 3x as high as the national average. Pump Aid has already worked in this district for the past 2 years, providing communities with access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene education.
We are now helping small scale farmers, by providing pumps that can be used to irrigate crops. Pump Aid is also supplying other agricultural inputs and training farmers in improved farming techniques. By supporting local water and sanitation businesses that provide affordable water and sanitation products, small scale farmers and the wider community are able to access products and repairs easily.
Our programme aims to significantly increase food production, which ensures food security and raises the income of small farmers whilst improving health, due to more nutritious food. By combining higher food production with our water and sanitation work in these communities, the nutritional impact is significantly higher as water-borne illnesses are reduced.
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