By Foster Benjamin, Contributor:
On a farm in the area of Group Village Head (GVH) Chambuluka, Senior Chief Ngabu, in Chikwawa District, farmers are busy watering crops. Songs of joy break out as they irrigate their maize and vegetables.
As the farmers chant, winds of hope whisper through the green fields glowing in abundant sunshine.
This is Khama Lipindula Scheme, one of a handful groups working tirelessly to sustain their livelihoods. The scheme comprises 21 women and eight men drawn from Mkundiza Village, GVH Chambuluka. The goal of the group is to fight hunger.
Here, stories of success are being recounted, now and then. This, in fact, is due to the potential that the Shire Valley holds and nurtures.
Filisiya Chapangoti is among those benefitting from the venture. In charge of Khama Lipindula Scheme, Chapangoti is relatively rich in her own right.
“To say that I am rich is not mockery,” says Chapangoti, a mother-of-three, adding: “Being rich simply means having enough food to last you a year; this is what I am proud of thanks to Cicod [Circle for Integrated Community Development].”
Cicod is implementing a host of projects in the area, mainly on resilience and sustainable agriculture. Such initiatives are paying huge dividends. Many farmers are food-secure.
Genesi Mpukusa, a lead farmer, testifies: “We used to face acute food shortage year in year out. This is now history as irrigated farming, driven by Cicod, is turning things around.”
According to the World Bank, irrigated agriculture continues to play a critical role in achieving food security and poverty alleviation.
While irrigation development in the area of Chambuluka has thrived over the past two years, it has not been without hitches. Chief among them is insufficient irrigation systems.
Small-scale farmers often lament the use of treadle pumps which they claim is strenuous and involving. Such irrigation systems have long been ruled as labour intensive.
Now, farmers under Khama Lipindula wish they could switch to more efficient ways of irrigating their crops. Solar power, they argue, could be the best option to help them boost crop production.
Chapangoti stresses that “Solar may actually assist us a lot as we’re now finding our treadle pumps too difficult to operate”.
She is not the only one towing this line of thought. Many more people believe that most of the existing irrigation systems are not only inefficient but also unreliable and unproductive.
In Chambuluka farmers’ case, however, the need for solar powered irrigation is a mountain seemingly too high to climb. Cicod, which is supporting them, rules out the possibility of procuring a solar-powered irrigation system for them.
The organisation’s Programme Manager, Edward Thole, says: “We will not buy them solar materials but rather take them through a process through which they will purchase the solar panels on their own using proceeds from their outputs.”
Thole adds that Cicod will strive to build the capacity of farmers in managing their schemes.
“We are here to mobilise people in these schemes to achieve a wide array of benefits and it is our expectation that food security among these farmers will continue to be enhanced because of high value crops we are encouraging them to grow,” Thole says.
He believes that things will continue turning around in all the five sites under Trocaire-sponsored programmes.
While sustainable agriculture features prominently at Khama Lipindula Scheme due to availability of water, the outlook in neighbouring schemes remains bleak.
At Bauti Scheme—which comprises Viramau, Chasauka and Nyagogwa villages under GVH Bauti—things seem terrible. Scarce water resources loom large here than at Chambuluka, almost four kilometres away.
In fact, water scarcity at Bauti has become the single greatest threat not only to food security but also human health and natural ecosystems.
“Water is scarce here as we depend on one borehole,” GVH Bauti laments. “This is not enough to cater for over 300 families that scramble for borehole water.”
And those who opt out of the scramble face various challenges in their long journeys in search of water.
Women, who rise as early as two o’clock in the morning to draw water from Chidima River, recount bitter experiences.
If they are not sexually abused, they are bitten by snakes. Yet, still, there is much that Chambuluka and Bauti farmers are proud of—areas which were once wastelands are now havens of food security.
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