By Wezzie Gausi:
Chilibuno Village, in one of Nkhotakota District’s remote locations, stands like a giant in the midst of chaos.
Neatly thatched houses in an orderly linear fashion lie side by side to aptly attract the attention of visitors.
But the village, set out in a district with one of the highest rates of stunting, wasting and underweight of children under five, has not always been like this.
“Poverty was our companion. Even after getting a coupon for subsidised farm inputs, I was still failing to produce enough to last to the next harvest,” says Falida Mfaume, a small-scale farmer from the village.
The mother of six narrates that she depended much on piece work to earn a living even though she had substantial spans of land to cultivate.
But that is no longer the case. Since her village got chosen to be part of the Afikepo Project, she has learnt to diversify in her farming exploits to ensure food and nutrition security for her household.
The five-year project, implemented by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), whose name means ‘Let them develop to their full potential’ aims to enhance nutrition security in Malawi specifically by addressing chronic malnutrition.
“My household was affected. In fact, I could spend a significant amount of time taking the children to hospital. Then I ventured into serious small-scale farming and now hunger is no longer part of my family,” says Hadija Ziyada, another Chilibuno villager.
She brags that now she has enough maize to take her through to the next yield. Her household also rears goats and chickens whose excreta she uses in her fruits garden.
Ziyada admits that levels of malnutrition in her village and surrounding areas were frighteningly high such that they easily lost children in circumstances related to the condition.
“It was not easy to feed my eight children. But today, beyond having sufficient food, we are also making profits from farming. I have even managed to build an iron-roofed house. I am also paying school fees for my two children who are in secondary school,” she says.
Ziyada adds that she had regular scuffles with her husband over failure to provide for their children.
Group Village Head Mkombodza, also in the lakeshore district, says her village is a model for several others in terms of food security.
“We no longer buy basic foods. Of course, we face some challenges bordering on accessing markets for our farm produce. We end up selling our produce to vendors at lower prices,” he laments.
He hopes that prices of fertiliser will go down so that smallholder farmers easily access them and further improve their households’ food and nutrition security.
Affordable and good seed is another thing that the local leader prays for every time he wakes up and takes a stroll through his crop fields.
“Good seed is very expensive. Then there are also problems with pesticides and spraying equipment. Otherwise, my village has tremendously risen in terms of food security,” he says.
Mkombodza is also content that several households within his area of jurisdiction have toilets, kitchens, backyard gardens and are rearing livestock to improve their sanitation and nutrition statuses.
Nkhotakota District Coordinator for Fao Patrick Kombe, says the Afikepo Project is in line with Sustainable Development Goal Two which focuses on ending hunger.
Kombe further states that they aim to strengthen multi-sectoral governance of nutrition, contributing to national and district development planning and monitoring and informing policies.
“We are fostering and strengthening behavioural change to influence household behaviour towards food production and nutrition. We are also looking at integrated delivery of extension support in agriculture and nutrition at community level,” Kombe explains.