Sustainable Improvements to Farming Offer Long-Term Benefits

Self Help AfricaCase Study, Malawi


Moofat and Memory Mogombo have three children and farm a plot of land just outside Mabwera village in central Malawi. Until Self Help Africa came to their village, they grew just maize and tobacco, which left them vulnerable to drastic fluctuations in price from year to year. “There were times,” says Moofat, “when we were hungry. The maize from the last harvest had run out, and we couldn’t buy more because the money from our tobacco crop had also run dry.”

In addition, the productivity of their two-acre plot was falling year-on-year, simply because they were unable to afford fertiliser. Self Help Africa’s intervention in the village brought a variety of long-term benefits for Moofat and Memory. “I was chosen to be the first recipient of pigs in the village,” says Moofat. “I received three pigs – two female and one male – and attended a course on how to keep and nurture them. I got these pigs on credit for the whole village, and the whole village was looking to me.

The first litter of piglets was born, and I passed on all six to two other families in the village – three to each. In addition, I educated these families on how to care for the pigs, based on my experience.” This repaid Moofat’s ‘debt’ to the village, and he has now started to sell piglets from his stock for the benefit of his family.

“I sold three piglets a few days ago,” says Moofat proudly. From these sales he received the equivalent of £95/ €110, while previously, he got £140/€160 from the sale of four piglets. “This income has allowed me to put a new roof on our house, to buy two beds for the house, to buy some goats, and to pay for school books and uniforms for my daughter.”

Maximising income from the farm is not the only beneficial change wrought by Self Help Africa’s work. Moofat and Memory, who work the field together, have also begun to grow peanuts (called ‘groundnuts’ locally), introduced into the village by SHA. This is a cash crop, which further supplements household income, as well as providing a readily available and rich source of protein.

The nut seed – sourced by SHA from a national seed institute and multiplied and distributed by a local seed group – is paid back by villagers after harvest, so other communities can benefit from the stock and thus cementing a lasting change.

Moofat and Memory have doubled their area under cultivation to four acres since collaborating with SHA. Not only does this allow them to grow more, it enables them the space to keep livestock as well. Furthermore, the manure from the pigs and goats can be spread on their land as fertiliser. This, together with the benefits of other soil conservation work promoted by SHA has led to a bumper harvest for the family.

“Our maize store is full this year,” says Memory. “This year, we have enough to eat, and the pigs, goats and peanuts are bringing in cash income. We have joined a bank, and we are starting to save regularly. We are not hungry, we eat better, we have a better home, and we have savings.”