Recent years have been tough for 69-year-old Minus Nierenda, a mother and grandmother living in Southern Malawi.
Not long after she lost her husband of almost 50 years, in 2014, Minus began to experience “a sensation like I had smoke in my eyes,” she explains through a translator.
Her sight steadily deteriorated, until she could see little more than indistinct shapes, and make out light from dark. By the time she was brought to hospital, she was told the damage to her sight – a result of high blood pressure – was irreparable. Minus was blind.
Assisted for the past number of years by Self Help Africa to diversify what she produces on her small farm in Zingaranjara village, Minus says that for the past number of years she had been growing cassava and groundnut alongside her traditional maize crop, and breeding and selling goats with support from the project.
With money she’d earned from the sale of a number of kid goats, the elderly grandmother built a new tin-roofed home adjacent to her traditional thatched dwelling, last year. Several or her grandchildren, who live nearby, moved in with her, and today they are on hand to help her when she needs it.
“I try to be independent, but it is hard when you can hardly see,” she explains. “I am helped to get around the place by my grandchildren. When they are at school I can call on my daughter-in-law, who lives nearby.”
Minus Nierenda says her older grandchildren now do almost all of the farm work, and in return she contributes to the cost of their education.
“I only attended primary school for a few years myself, so I am happy to be able to help my ten grandchildren to go to school. They talk to me about what they do at school and sometimes read stories to me. We are helping each other,” she says.