Keeping raging waters in check

GAMA—It is our way of motivating them

By Imam Wali:

The onset of the rainy season has stirred mixed feelings among some farmers, who are keenly anticipating perfect harvests. They are also worried that raging floods will wipe away their crops before harvest time.

In Balaka and Mangochi districts, farmers who solely depend on farming for survival habitually cast their eyes to the sky with anxiety every moment dark clouds gather to herald another downpour.


And that is not all. Droughts also often hit their areas, leaving them with little or nothing to yield.

On some major hills in the two eastern region districts, people have wantonly felled trees, clearing what used to mitigate the fierce flow of rainwater to farms and homes.

But hope is rising again. During our recent visit to some areas in the two districts, we discovered that some actions are being carried out to minimise the impact of disasters on livelihoods.


Farmers in disaster-prone areas are being helped to construct deep trenches, vegetated channels to store and convey run-off and remove pollutants and check dams, among other interventions, to keep racing waters in check.

“These facilities will significantly control the damage that floods exact in our area,” says Bakali Friday, a resident of Jere Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kachenga in Balaka.

Apart from crops, which are the biggest victims of floods, Friday hopes that the facilities will also ensure that raging run-offs do not raze down houses as they used to.

“We had no alternative. Our hope was in providence; we just had to pray that rain fell gently so that it could not destroy crops. It often did and hunger could badly strike us,” he adds.

Now, the deep trenches and swales are there to trap rainwater from the almost bare slopes of the hills.

They will also ensure that water is available for longer than the rainy season as it will be kept in the dugouts, which are acting as storage tanks.

“We have also embarked on a tree-planting project. We want to dress the hills in green again to lessen the impacts of flash floods and violent runoffs. We have already planted 15,000 trees,” Friday says of his 282-member Village Civil Protection Committee.

Their efforts are being amplified by a United Kingdom-funded project dubbed Promoting Sustainable Partnerships for Empowered Resilience (Prosper), which is being implemented by a consortium of non-governmental organisations and private-sector partners.

The consortium—which is providing Friday’s group with incentives so that its members can work harder in their crop fields—is being led by Concern Worldwide.

“The members that we work with get incentives so that they go an extra mile in their efforts. For every 12 days that they work in their fields, they get K7,200 for six days.

“It is our way of motivating them; even if they work in their own crop fields, they should get some money to buy food for their families,” says Alinafe Gama, who is Balaka District Coordinator for United Purpose (UP), an organisation in the consortium which is implementing Prosper Project in the eastern region district.

Elsewhere in Kalino Village, T/A Mponda in Mangochi, communities are being assisted in taking care of trees that are growing in places which were literally bare not long ago.

The regeneration is slowing down floods and run-offs and keeping houses, crops and livestock safe and secure in a season that often brings trouble.

Then there are the trenches which are trapping furious waters which used to flatten houses and crop fields apart from sweeping livestock down in their flow.

Farmer Nickson Udindo from Kalino Village speaks highly of the trenches.

“The same field used to give my family seven 50-kilogramme bags of maize before we started the process of slowing floods and run-offs. This year, we have harvested 30 bags on the same field,” Udindo brags.

The Prosper Project, which is targeting 950,000 vulnerable people in Balaka, Chikwawa, Phalombe and Mangochi districts, runs from December 2018 to March 2023.

The consortium’s director Chris Connelly says the project aims at reducing the impact of climate shocks, responding to seasonal consumption needs and supporting the design of social safety, among other objectives.

Apart from Concern Worldwide and UP, other members of the consortium include Food and Agriculture Organisation, Goal Malawi, Kadale Consultants, the office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator and World Food Programme.

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