United locals rise bit by bit


By Alick Ponje:

KAMWANA—This means we are growing our

On the eastern stretch of Shire River in Chikwawa District, crop fields which were flattened by raging floods in March this year have something rising from them.

But, there are stark differences in what is growing in the fields which, after the floods, became repositories of alluvial soils which made farming worthwhile.


As time went, the silty soils lost their fertility once again, a thing that thrusted locals in this part of the Shire Valley district into moments of despair once again.

“After the floods, my family capitalised on the deposits of fertile soils to grow maize again. My maize fields had been swept away by the floods,” says Elizabeth Thomson of John Village, Traditional Authority Katunga in the district.

She is not alone. Many more villagers in this hot location— where maize production is a tough venture—got the most out of the alluvial soils to rise from the trail of ruins left by the floods which hit hard Malawi’s Southern Region.


But now, on the sides of the under-construction Thabwa-Chitseko-Seveni Road that goes through Thomson’s village, fields with healthily-green and those with withering, half-starved maize lie side by side.

“The fertility is no longer there, so it means those who cannot afford to apply fertiliser will not harvest enough,” Thomson says.

She is not one of them.

As she slowly rose from the March cyclone, which also swept through Mozambique and Zimbabwe and left over 1,000 people dead, Thomson thought about how she would sustain her family’s livelihood.

“I saved something after selling part of my harvest after the floods. By then, I had already joined a group of other locals who were affected by the road project and received compensation from the government.

“So, I was able to save money and obtain loans from the group. I used part of the money to improve my family’s crop production. That is why my crops are healthier than those of others,” Thomson adds.

From the loans, Thomson is also able to enhance her rice business.

Her story epitomises those of 27 other women and 17 men who make up Mwamphanzi Cluster formed under the auspices of Community Savings and Investment Promotion (Comsip) two weeks after the floods had hit the Shire Valley.

To sustain operations of the group, every member is required to obtain loans and buy shares every month at regular intervals.

With a profile of over K1.1 million, Mwamphanzi Comsip Cluster is regarded as one of the most successful loans and savings groups along the road project.

“Every member is able to get a loan according to their shares. This means we are growing our profile and very soon, we will have enough to purchase a maize mill to enhance our business,” the cluster’s chairperson, John Kamwana, says.

The K320,000 grant which the group received from Comsip for financial literacy trainings is also being lent among members so that it accumulates profits before it is finally put to its prime purpose.

And as the group keeps raising its financial profile, it sees the maize mill project becoming a reality not long from now.

“We want to capitalise on the fact that there are few maize mills here and when there is no electricity, people from this side have to cover several kilometres to mill their maize,” Kamwana says.

To escape the persistent power problems in their community, Mwamphanzi Cluster wants to go off grid and install a solar-powered maize mill.

In their location— where sunlight is not a rare commodity—the enterprising 45 men and women hope to exploit hydro-electricity energy problems to make business sense.

Comsip Cooperative Union Development Communications Officer, Emmanuel Muwamba, says the initial training in financial services, business management and savings that Mwamphanzi Cluster got is already bearing fruits.

“When we were brought in by the government, through the Roads Authority to provide training in financial literacy, business management and savings and investment to the people affected by the road project, our desire was to see their lives being restored and this is happening,” Muwamba says.

And for Thomson, the restoration has to be sustainable.

Thus, the 70-year-old mother-of-two is diversifying her business profile so that her family will continue reaping the fruits of her schemes even after she is gone.

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