When he noted that the familiar Masaf IV vehicle which had a stopover at Karonga Boma was heading to his village, he asked for a lift back home.
But to the surprise of everybody in the vehicle, when it was time to leave, he asked for more time to complete his shopping.
As we patiently waited for him, he was busy moving from one shop to another, buying learning materials.
Later, he returned with several notebooks, pens and other learning materials, prompting us to ask who he had bought for.
“They are for my children. I have 13 children from my three wives,” said Buta Mweso, smiling.
We were not immediately convinced.
But he insisted that there was no tint of a lie in what he had said.
“Believe me, I have 13 children and I am not struggling to feed them,” Mweso said.
The 32-year-old man from Simon Village, Traditional Authority Kyungu in Karonga District, is an enterprising farmer who works hard to ensure his big family has enough to eat.
The three wives and 13 children are not the only people he takes care of; he also looks after two children of his late sister.
Many men in his community with such big families fail to optimally fend for their children. It is the wives who shoulder the huge responsibilities.
When communities in his area started Kayelekera Irrigation Scheme in 2005 with only 25 farmers on a meagre 1.5-hectare land, Mweso quickly joined and became a member.
The scheme became robust in 2016 when Masaf IV came in to assist the group with pipes and cement which they used to construct a 300-metre-long water canal that supplies water into the 18-hectare irrigation field.
Upon seeing that the water canal would pass by his compound, Mweso quickly thought of constructing a fish pond to take advantage of the water.
He is now harvesting fish for sale and consumption and believes he would do more if a bigger pond whose construction has stalled were functional.
Mweso offered his three hectares of land to the irrigation scheme to contribute to its growth so more farmers could join and benefit from the facility.
It is such courtesy plus his commitment and dedication to farming that have earned him the title of lead farmer within the scheme.
“I wish my bigger fish pond was completed so I can assist my 18-member strong family better,” he said.
But since works on it has stalled, he has to make do with the smaller pond.
“I wish well-wishers assisted me with cement; I would complete the larger fish pond because I have skills for doing it,” he said.
Mweso has a number of plots in the scheme where he grows rice, maize, tomatoes and leaf vegetables.
“We now have plans to expand the irrigation scheme to 25 hectares so that more farmers can join,” says Mweso whose father died when he was only six and married when he was 18.
As if to copy from Mweso’s idea, the expanded scheme would also include a dam where the group intends to start fish farming.
Mweso’s wives have not left the burden of caring for children to their husband. All of them are members of the irrigation scheme and have plots where they grow different types of crops for consumption and sale.
His most senior wife, 29-year-old Vera Mtambo, who has five children, said she grows rice, maize tomatoes and various leaf vegetables. Her co-wives do the same, just to ensure they look after the children well.
Meanwhile, Mpata Extension Planning Area Agriculture Extension Development Officer, Peace Kapira, says he often monitors the farming activities at the scheme and crop fields belonging to individual farmers.
He says his office has endorsed the farmers’ idea to expand the irrigation scheme.
“I monitor their activities at least three times a week to see how irrigation activities progress. They now want to expand the scheme to 25 hectares from the current 18-hectare land,” says Kapira.—Mana
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