By Stevie Chauluka:
The swelling of the Shire River in February this year following heavy rains that fell in the southern part of Malawi is still having a crude impact on the lives of the affected people.
The burden is particularly worse for those who solely depend on agriculture.
For instance, Francis William, 39, has been a farmer all his life, growing maize and vegetables in a field which is not far from the banks of the river, in Nyamula Village, Traditional Authority Tengani in Nsanje District.
William is also a member of Nyamula Irrigation Scheme situated on the banks of the giant river that snakes through the district to pour into Zambezi River. The scheme has, for a long time, been providing locals here with food and income.
The flooded Shire River washed away the scheme’s crops, leaving William and the other 250 members helpless as they would have nothing to harvest this year.
“The rains were just too much and all that we planted and counted for this year was washed away. Of course, the river floods almost every year, but the situation was worse this year because it flooded twice and no crop survived,” William said.
Apart from farming, the father-of-five operates a boat, helping people to cross to either side of the river which, on the scheme’s stretch, separates Malawi and Mozambique.
“Now that all our hopes in the fields are gone, I am relying on this boat, transporting people wanting to cross this river. It is, however, not something I can rely on to feed my family all year long. Only farming can.
“Now that the rainy season has come to an end, we will suffer because the treadle pumps we were using for irrigation are not working, meaning that we cannot irrigate our fields anymore if we plant again,” William said.
Chairperson of Nyamula Village Development Committee, Kennedy Panyatwa, concurs with William, saying people in the village are at risk of starvation.
“We are just lucky that some people from this village grew millet and sorghum upland; they are the ones who are feeding us. However, that is not sustainable. We need to do winter cropping and irrigate our fields,” Panyatwa said.
Realising the challenges that people in the area would likely face if they did not grow crops again, Churches Action in Relief and Development (Card) provided them with ten solar-powered irrigation pumps.
Card Executive Director, Melton Luhanga, said the pumps will help the affected households recover from the floods by engaging in irrigation farming.
“We are hoping that this will help at least 120 households in this area. These pumps are mobile and easy to assemble; so farmers will have no problem using them for irrigation. We are also hoping to reach out to more farming families in this village,” he said.
According to Luhanga, Card donated to Nyamula Village because the area had a good irrigation scheme which should be restored after the damage by nature.
In response to the aid, Panyatwa said the pumps will reduce challenges the community was facing in irrigation farming.
“We were using treadle pumps but we could not replace the damaged spares. We set up a fund where we were contributing K4,000 every year, but after the damage to our fields, no one could make the contributions.
“We are hoping that with these new pumps, we will be able to bounce back and grow tomatoes and vegetables that will soon mature and be ready for sale,” Panyatwa said.
Nsanje District Irrigation Officer, Edward Mkandawire, urged the community to use the pumps as tools for making money.
“The government appreciates the support from organisations to victims of natural disasters. It will bring change in the lives of the farmers. They will now be using technology in their farming activities.
“I am urging people that will be using these pumps to make a good use of them. They should also take good care of the tools,” Mkandawire said.
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