Improving the nutritional situation in Malawi

Women learn how to plant vegetables and fruits in the garden.

Many children and women in Malawi suffer from malnutrition as a result of crop failures, unbalanced nutrition and a lack of knowledge about storing food and preparing meals. In our project regions in Ntchisi and Lilongwe, we work together with our partners and the people in the villages to improve the long-term nutritional situation and hereby aim at preventing malnutrition, growth disorders and secondary diseases.

Although large parts of Malawi's land are used for agriculture, food shortages are rather frequent. Often the harvest is not used by the villagers for their own needs, or it spoils as a result of incorrect storage. Knowledge about balanced nutrition and the preparation of meals is also limited. Some organisations distribute plastic packages with high caloric nutrition for children under the age of two - regularly and each time for several months. This helps, but only in the short term. Now the women and men in the villages want to improve their nutritional situation in the long term: "We must learn to use the available food properly. In addition, we need money to buy corn flour if our stocks are exhausted before the new harvest. And we need to improve our agricultural yields."

Cooking demonstrations and loans

In the meantime, the women meet regularly in nutrition groups. Experts and village health workers explain the composition and preparation of a balanced diet and organise cooking demonstrations. The women are instructed to plant vegetables and fruit in their small house gardens and learn how to make milk from soy. For Wiskace, a health worker, the mutual exchange between the women is important: "Reciprocal learning has an extremely positive effect."

Many nutrition groups have opened a joint savings account. The women deposit money into the account when they have sold part of the harvest. Through this account they can get a loan. A womens'group in Chinthembwe bought goats from the money. So they have milk and, at the same time, fertilizer for their fields. As a next step, the women want to learn how to start a small gainful activity through microcredits, for example beekeeping. The construction of a local storehouse is also planned.

Sharing of knowledge

In order to increase agricultural yields, women and men have been selected to participate in specific training measures and to share their knowledge with other people in their village. They learn about  new methods of soil management and how to produce organic fertilizer from leaves, ash and soil. For maize cultivation, they dig out rectangular planting holes for four maize seedlings each. A handful of this organic fertilizer per planting hole can visibly increase the yield. Judith from Kalamba confirms this. As she had been rather sceptical at first, she had only cultivated half of her maize field in this way. And this part actually brought a double yield: "This changes my life. Because if we have food, there is no quarrel in the family," she says today.

These activities initially were started in a few villages. Now they are to be extended to the entire region. The department World Church of the Diocese Rottenburg Stuttgart supports the transfer of trainers to the villages and the realisation of the training measures.

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