CIFA Chair visits the food and nutrition security project in Malawi

Mary from Ungweru in the maize fields

I was recently in Malawi on a work trip and managed to take some leave to go and visit Ungweru in Mzimba North and the CIFA-Ungweru project: Strengthening citizen participation for food and nutrition security.

Whilst there, we visited a community living some 15-20 kilometres away from Mzuzu city. I learnt from the community representatives (most of them committee members of Village Savings and Loan groups) how they had been benefitting from the project. In particular, they emphasised how training on VSLs and on conservation agriculture techniques had really begun to change things for the better.

On the VSLs, although the farmers I spoke with had only been making small contributions from their own meagre earnings by buying shares in the VSLs (up to around £1 each), this had meant they were able to then access small loans from the VSLs of up to three times the value of the shares they owned. As a result, farmers were able to purchase inputs for their farming, allowing them to produce more and earn a higher income. Without the VSLs, they would be unable to get loans from micro-finance institutions or banks.

On the farming side, one man told us how he had been using the lessons learnt from the agricultural training to use the manure from a pig to grow his maize which, he was proud to tell us, was doing very well this year.

Ungweru staff and community members pose for a picture

Despite the community members having little themselves, before me and the Ungweru team left, we were treated to a local dish of Nsima (maize porridge), with some blanched pumpkin leaves and a small chicken to share. Well, they do say Malawi is the warm heart of Africa!