I met Edesi Flyton at the hottest, driest time of the year in Malawi. In late November the temperature in her village ranges from mid thirties to high forties in the daylight. Edesi and the small farmers of Mtuwa were waiting for the December rains and preparing their fields to plant new crops.
Mtuwa village is situated in Chikwawa in the south of Malawi. It has always been a challenge here for farmers like Edesi to grow enough food to look after their families on their small plots of land but in recent years the effects of climate change have made it even harder as rainfall patterns have become more erratic.
Captions: Edesi Flyton and Chakuwamba Thole from Mtuwa village, Chikwawa, Malawi. Photos: Alan Whelan.
The December rains Edesi and the village of Mtuwa wait for have often been all too short, not giving their crops a chance to grow properly. In the past Edesi has had to rely largely on gathering firewood, selling it on to gain vital income. The collection of firewood is a widespread and time consuming task in Malawi. It offers a lifeline in the short term but it’s led to a major deforestation problem accelerating the effects of climate change.
In this weather, goat breeding provides a great alternative to firewood gathering and a crucial fallback when crops have failed to harvest enough to survive. The goats Edesi received through Trócaire’s partner in Malawi, CADECOM, have made a huge difference. She received one of her first goats from Chakawamba Thole, one of the most successful farmers in Mtuwa. He received the gift of a goat from Trócaire in 2006 and currently has 38 goats. He used money from the sale of the goats to build himself a new house. Edesi has also passed on two of her goats to another family. She says ‘now I only fetch firewood sometimes as the money from the goats supports the family.’
Edesi received training from CADECOM in how to rear the goats and they have taught her other things too; ‘I learnt that women can do work that men normally do. Like I constructed that goat corrall over there. I did that all alone from the bottom to the roof. I also learned about other good things for my crops like water harvesting structures. And now I collect goat droppings and turn them into manure for my field. This has improved my farming.’
Captions: Top: Edesi Flyton with two of her sons Alex and Maleyu sitting outside their house in Mtuwa, Chikwawa. Malawi, November 2011. Middle Right: Levison Kambauga, Marila Newton, and Fidesi Drevala play drums to welcome Trócaire. The corrall Edesi built for her goats. Bottom: Some of the members of the community of Mtuwa, outside Chakawamaba Thole’s house. Photos: Alan Whelan.
Edesi’s husband left her in 2007 and now she takes care of her five children that are still living at home by herself. She says, “it is a very big priority for me for my children to get an education. Even when I don’t have money from goats or firewood I go to other farms and earn money there to put them through school.
“I envy my neighbours who have children that have learnt and are working in better jobs. I want my children to learn as well so they can have better employment in the future. I didn’t have that chance myself so I would like them to have a better chance.”