US Ambassador hails community for taking ownership of food aid programme

In a year troubled by one of the worst food shortages in memory, beneficiaries of World Vision’s Southern Africa Elnino Response (SAENER) have gone a step beyond being food recipients to create long lasting assets for themselves.

Palmer with the people of Zomba

Food aid beneficiaries in Zomba district have capitalized on the food that they have been receiving to take care of their watershed by planting more trees and creating other community assets, an effort that will benefit their farming in the low lying areas of theirKambwiri and Kamondo Villages.

Every month since December, 79,000 households have been receiving 50 kilograms ofmaize two litres of vegetable oil as well as 10 kilograms of peas or beans. On top of this, pregnant and lactating mothers have also been receiving 10 kilograms of Corn Soy Blend. The program is expected to run up to March.

Addressing the United States of America Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, the community said that it voluntarily heed the call of World Vision and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to embark on operations that will benefit them today and into the unforeseeable future.

“Last year’s drought was very bad”, said Chairlady for the grouping in Kambwiri village MathildaChikoko. “And we decided to make use of the energy we got from the food which we have been receiving in beautifying the mountain and improving our soil fertility by planting trees on our mountain”.

Through this, the community has managed to plant30, 550 trees that include nim, gemelina and other trees around the mountain. It has also planted vetiva and dug a waterholding canal to keep water and moisture for their young trees.

“This mountain used to have trees but were all lost due to charcoal burning”, went on 56 year old Mathilda who blamed poverty and knowledge gaps among community members as having been the worst drivers of destruction.

While creating community sustainable assets, the beneficiaries are also investing in their own homes by implementing similar activities in their houses. Mathilda, says that having the people plant trees and produce manure, which promotes gardening in their homesteads, eventually solves the ownership challenge that often comes with group work.

“We realized that we were the ones who were hungry and in need so any idea that would transform our lives was so welcome,” said Zione, whose vegetable garden is not only providing her family with vegetables to supplement meals but also money through sales.

“After doing farm demonstrations and constructing gardens, World Vision provided us with seeds that we planted in our garden,” she said as she walked around the plot.

Because she would not afford inorganic fertilizers sold in the shops, Zione and her husband applied compost manure which they produced on their own following training by World Vision. Through the money earned from vegetable sales, approximately 500 kwacha a week, Zione is buying sugar and exercise books for her two children attending primary school.

Besides, through the two trainings conducted in their community, Zione and her husband Cassim says that they have also learnt producing and using energy saving stoves. They have also been introduced to Village Savings and Loans concepts that they expect to benefit from beyond the food aid operation.

These activities are being replicated in 42 more villages in Traditional Authority Mulumbe where 1,850 households are participating. “The rest of those left out of these interventions are the elderly as well as lactating mothers who cannot manage to come and contribute labour at the project sites,” says ElizabethKogoya World Vision’s Field Monitor responsible for Resilience and recovery operations for Zomba district. She also stressed that all people taking part in the complementary activities are doing so voluntarily.

“It is very interesting to see all the things that you are doing through the programme,” said Ms Palmer as she addressed the community after a brief traditional dance in which she happily participated.

“American people and Malawians have been good friends for years and when the drought hit you, we decided to help in every way that we could manage and it is good to see all the accomplishments that you have made in such a brief period”, she added.

Urging the people to keep working hard for their children, the US Ambassador also thanked WFP and her implementing partner World Vision for a job well done.

On this tour of villages and the El Nino induced response, the US Ambassador was accompanied by World Vision Malawi’s National Director, Hazel Nyathiand WFP’s Country Director Coco Ushiama.

World Vision is also implementing the food aid response programme in Neno, Mwanza and Chikwawa districts where a total of over one million people are benefiting every month.

In all these districts, similar complementary activities are being implemented with support from United States AID, the European Union and other organisations.

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