Agriculture Recovery Story

Before floods hit the area in December last year, John Matope had all the hopes that, given normal distribution of rains, he would realize bumper harvests from the maize and pigeon peas which he planted both for consumption and selling. His anticipation was however rendered in vain when his piece of land, which was about 2 acres, was washed away. Matope comes from Kaliati Village in the area of Traditional Authority Nazombe in Phalombe District. Soon after the disaster happened, Matope was identified as one of the beneficiaries in the Agriculture Recovery Project which Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) rolled out in the district with funding from Development Fund for International Development (DFID).

Through the project, 30,000 farming families were targeted in Mulanje, Phalombe, Zomba and Machinga districts. These are households that lost crop fields, especially maize which is the staple food in Malawi. FUM distributed maize and rice seeds, cassava cuttings, sweet potato vines, hoes and panga knives to help the affected farm families revert back to agricultural practices for their livelihoods. The names of the beneficiaries were identified and compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development officials and were verified by a team established in each district in liaison with respective traditional leaders. Matope was therefore given sweet potato vines which he planted on an average of 1.5 acres of land.

During a recent visit by a team of officials from DFID and FUM, Matope expressed gratitude to FUM for initiating the project and particularly for being identified as one of the people in the area to benefit from the project. He said, “This project came at a time when we had nowhere to turn to as we could not possibly recover our crops which were lost during this tragedy. My family and I can now afford a sigh of relief because, as you can see, this potato field looks very promising.”

Matope explained that soon he will start harvesting the sweet potato and is expected to raise income from the sales and he will use the proceeds to buy maize for consumption. Apart from selling the sweet potato the family will also benefit in terms of food security. He also noted that the sweet potato leaves are used as relish which will provide the necessary nutrients to the family.

This success story is also shared by many farm families that benefited from the project from all areas where the project is being implemented. Speaking after touring some parts of Mulanje, Phalombe and Zomba, DFID’s Deputy Team Leader for Growth and Resilience Team, Dr. Teddie Nakhumwa expressed satisfaction with the impact that the project has made to the lives of people. He noted that the project has provided some immediate cushion to the farmers. He also commended the creativity of farmers to multiply the seeds which will also be used during the next growing season. Nakhumwa further said that he had noted with interest that some places such as Mkanda in Mulanje, farmers are fully utilizing Mbendera Irrigation Scheme. This, according to Nakhumwa has potential to maximized production of maize which is currently being cultivated. He also asked FUM to look into the request of farmers on the provision of irish potato seed which could be planted in the irrigation scheme. A few farmers had already planted irish potatoes in the scheme.

In line with the objective of the project, some families have already propagated their fields with the sweet potato vines from the seed multiplication plots but also from the field whose crop has matured and is being harvested.

 Matope and his wife showing off part of their sweet potato field

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