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Sustainable solutions for Malawi rice farmers

February 2014

As flooding batters parts of Ireland and the UK, in northern Malawi where water is scarce, Nellie Kayira, a small-scale rice farmer, struggles to grow enough food to feed her family.

Nellie Kayira, a rice farmer from Malawi

Nellie was dependent on two harvests: one rice crop that grew with the rain and a second harvest which used an irrigation system from a nearby river.

However, when the river water became too shallow to reach her plot of land, she was left devastated, with just half the produce for her family to survive on. 

  • Before we would have been dependent on the government for hand outs if the food ran out, but now we have more options of our own.'

Farmers at risk

Small-scale farming is risky. So many things can go wrong: droughts, floods, rain, pests. When disaster strikes, you can be left with no harvest, no income, nothing.

Rice farmers in Malawi In Malawi, we are working with rice farmers to ensure they have more alternatives, options and ways to survive.

Nellie said: ‘It has been two years since we’ve been able to harvest using the irrigation, at first I was very sad because I didn’t know what to do.’

‘Before we would have been dependent on the government for hand outs if the food ran out, but now we have more options of our own. Now I don’t feel the impact like I did before. I’m able to sustain my family; we can scrape by and meet our basic needs.’

Providing a more secure income

Nellie joined a community savings and loans group that we helped to set up and support. 25 neighbours pool their income after harvesting their crops. They buy shares in the group, giving them the right to borrow money too.

This gave Nellie the freedom and ability to start up a simple but clever moneymaking business.

A village savings and loans group in Malawi ‘The first time I borrowed money from the scheme, I used it to buy some cassava. We grow cassava here so it is quite cheap and easy to find. But in the fishing villages they don’t grow crops. So I travelled to sell the cassava there for a better price. In the fishing village I can buy dried fish to bring back here.’

Benefitting twice from the value of the goods by travelling, Nellie is making a steady income. When faced with being unable to feed and clothe her family, Nellie found her own innovative solution.

‘The village savings and loans have created a lot of opportunities for us, but at the end of the day it’s our own money. I’m so proud of what we have been able to achieve.’

Reaching more people like Nellie

Our projects are helping to set up and train community credit and loans schemes throughout Malawi.  With your help, we can continue to support communities like Nellie’s.

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