Whether it stems from a desire to preserve wildlife, reduce pollution, or simply to know exactly where our food is coming from, sustainable farming has become more and more popular in recent years. Many people in the United Kingdom are choosing a ‘greener’ way of life by growing their own produce out of a desire for sustainability, rather than necessity. But in Malawi, it is sometimes the only way to avoid the very real threat of a food crisis and shortage.
Chimwemwe Mhango lives in Matemonga Village, Mzgola, with his wife, their five children and his in-law’s child. He dreams of being able to have a completed house, with floors and plastered walls, but his priority remains with ensuring that his family is food secure.
Like many people in this part of Malawi, Chimwemwe does this through farming. His and his family’s main source of income comes from the tobacco that they produce, as well as a little from Irish potatoes and tomato beans which are both rain-fed and irrigated. But just like others who rely on the land, the effects of deforestation and a general lack of knowledge meant that these practices did not guarantee year-round income nor food.
In areas of Malawi like Nkhata Bay North, nine in ten people are farmers. This means reliance on the land and natural resources is paramount. Yet, deforestation is rife. Around 30% of forests in Malawi have been destroyed in the last decade alone, meaning that extreme weather conditions like floods and droughts are increasingly common. Subsequently, farming is extremely challenging. Knowing that he could not continue to support his family with the minimal yield that his farm generated, Chimwemwe contacted Temwa.
With the help of Temwa, Chimwemwe was introduced to alternative income-generating activities and educated on sustainable farming techniques. And in 2012 he began the bee keeping initiative. A year later he was able to sell his harvest, which made a huge profit – as did the second. It has become a solid source of income for his household in the years since. His children were able to spend the money from the first harvest on basic needs, house maintenance, and enough maize seed for one hectare of land.
From the money that they had made since getting the beehive, Chimwemwe and his family were able to purchase more hives taking their total to five. He is now able to hire people to work on his farm with him, meaning that the bee-keeping initiative has provided jobs and a source of income for others in his village. However, this is still not enough.
Chimwemwe said that he is “grateful for what has been done.” He is now able to better provide for the household. However, he still wishes to be completely sustainable and encourages donors and supporters to “continue supporting us until we are 100% independent.”
Becoming completely sustainable will not only positively effect Chimwemwe and his family, but others in the village. His produce will provide food for others, the farm will offer jobs, and his knowledge and experiences gained from the initiatives will allow him to help educate more people on sustainable farming techniques.
Why not get involved with Temwa? Whether you are taking on one of our events or joining the team, you will be helping many people like Chimwemwe in Malawi become fully sustainable.