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.
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.
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.
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.’”
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.
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.
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.
“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.’