When Ester Saizi, a smallholder farmer in Malawi, first joined our food security and economic empowerment programme, she was having a tough time growing enough nutritious food to feed her family and earn a living.
Like many women farmers in the southern region of Balaka, ranked the country’s second poorest district, extreme weather events caused by climate change were taking their toll on her harvests and income.
“Before the project, we were facing several challenges as women. We used to only plant maize and potatoes, without focusing on variety and having less benefits. When we were given orange sweet potatoes we started to produce and earn more” said Esther.
Balaka, located in the southern region of Malawi, has a population of about 480,000 people, where 112,000 are smallholder farmers. Balaka has been facing extremely dry seasons and floods, where 20% of the farming households were affected. As a result, 45% of the population have faced food insecurity.
Our DIVERSIFY (Developing Integrated Value chains to Enhance Rural Smallholders’ Incomes and Food security Year-round) project, funded by the Australian government and Action on Poverty, aims to change that, by providing smallholder farmers like Ester with nutrient-rich sweet potato seeds and training in how to plant them and eventually transplant them to their upland gardens. The farmers also learned about the various ways sweet potatoes can be used. For example, they learned how to make a healthy juice from the seeds, how to extract and sell the vines to the market, and how to use them for baking.
“This project has helped my family a lot, we now eat without problems” said fellow farmer Enelesi Goliati Mphweya, who is also a mother of four.
The project has also supported women bakers to expand and develop their baking skills, at a time when raw materials were becoming increasingly expensive and they were finding it harder to make ends meet. Through the creation of the Bazale Association Community Bakery Group (or Tiyanjane Bakery), our project team shared their knowledge and expertise – providing training opportunities, including in how to bake using potato seeds. They have since increased their profits and are producing better quality goods.
“Through this bakery, I have paid my school fees for my child, another woman has opened a tearoom and another has a salon,” said Brenda Lipenga, the secretary of Tiyanjane Bakery.