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How do we help farmers in Malawi adapt to climate change?

09 October 2019

RTE 2fm’s DJ Keith Walsh travelled to Malawi with Trócaire this September to raise awareness about Trócaire's work and the need for urgent climate change action.

Line James's community in Machinga, Malawi have been provided with ten treadle pumps  which are irrigating five hectares of land for forty four households. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Line James stands behind a maize crop in Machinga, Malawi that's growing successfully in the dry season thanks to Trócaire and Irish Aid's irrigation project. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Water pumps transform Machinga community

In Machinga, Malawi, Keith Walsh met a community Trócaire and Irish Aid have been working with to increase their crop production. The community have been provided with ten treadle pumps which are irrigating five hectares of land for forty four households. Irrigation projects like this are vital if farmers in Malawi are to going to cope with the more extreme climate they now live with.

Community members in Machinga, Malawi sing a song to welcome visitors. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire

Members of a community in Machinga, Malawi welcome visitors to see the difference water pumps have made to their livelihoods. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Visiting the project Keith said:

‘Instead of taking the water out of the river, bucket by bucket, walking sometimes half a kilometre, pouring the bucket, going back to get another bucket. They’d put in these pumps and were using hoses. The water helps harvest the maize and now they’re double harvesting’. With the pumps, the community are now able to grow a lot more in the dry season from April to November.

Lene's joy

Keith met Lene Nanthabwe, "she was absolutely delighted to have sold some of her maize for 100,000 kwachas (€125)  just a few weeks before we met her. She says she was able to pay for one of her children’s school fees with the sale. She showed us how before she had to carry a bucket from the river again and again. Now she can do in one day what used to take four. She said to us ‘now I can buy nice clothes like you.’”

Lene Nanthabwe shows how she had to water her crops with a bucket before they received their water pumps for irrigating. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Lene Nanthabwe shows how she had to water her crops with a bucket before they received the pumps. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.
2fm's Keith Walsh with Lene Nanthabwe's community in Machinga, Malawi. Photo: Karen McHugh/Trócaire.
Keith Walsh with Lene Nanthabwe. Photo: Karen McHugh/Trócaire.

Irrigation and crop variety vital to adapt to climate change

71% of the population of Malawi live below the global poverty line on less than two dollars a day. The vast majority of households here are headed by small farmers who depend on reliable rainfall to get by. Trócaire’s partner Cadecom Machinga have successfully encouraged this group to diversify their crops and move away from being heavily dependent on maize which is more reliant on rainfall. 

Suzana Ligomke's community in Machinga, Malawi have been provided with ten treadle pumps, irrigating five hectares of land for forty four households. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Suzana Ligomke's community in Machinga, Malawi have been provided with ten treadle pumps, irrigating five hectares of land for forty four households. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

The community are now growing more of these drought resistant crops; beans, pumpkins, chinese cabbage, okra, tomatoes and maize. Growing these crops is really important if communities are going to adapt to the changing climate. Climate change is bringing more frequent droughts which stop crops growing, and floods which destroy crops and increase soil erosion which damages fertility.

A Positive Cycle

Keith also met Musitafa Kasimu, another beneficiary of this irrigation project. With the income he raised since they got the pump, Kasimu was able to buy a bike. This is the first year he has made over 100,000 Kwachas.

Musitafa Kasimu shows the bike he bought with the sale of crops from his newly irrigated land. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Musitafa Kasimu shows the bike he bought with the sale of crops from his newly irrigated land. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

 

“It was a really nice bike. I did accuse him of being a hipster. I don’t know if they have hipsters in Malawi.” Keith joked. ‘He was really proud of it. He was telling me all the things he’d be able to do with it. He said ‘you know if my daughter gets sick, I’ll be able to bring her to hospital.’ He was saying he loans it to other villagers.’

Keith hitches a ride on Musitafa's bike. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Keith hitches a ride on Musitafa Kasimu's bike. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

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