Jessy regrets that the life she has today is not one she could provide when her children were younger. “When I was a young mother we often went without food.
We were very poor. At certain times we would need to ration what we had. We would eat only every third day. We would drink water, go to bed and try to sleep.”
“It was hard to sleep when the children were crying,” she remembers. Haunted by those memories, Jessy says that her four elder children – now adults – have jobs and families of their own, and live an urban life, far from the village.Only her youngest boy, Umani, who is 10, lives at home.
“It saddens me that I couldn’t provide for my family like I can today.” Jessy Sade is amongst over 180 families in Chitala village, Malawi, who have been supported by Self Help Africa to increase food production, and the range of crops that she can grow on her small family farm.
To supplement her income she has also been assisted with the establishment of a small business, a commercial tree nursery, where she rears and grafts mango trees for sale. She predicts that the trees will provide a valuable source of income for her, and an important source of food for local households who buy and plant them.
Jessy says that Umani is struggling at school, and is still languishing in second grade in primary school, when he should be as high as grade five. She doesn’t believe that his difficulties at school are the result of any damage he might have suffered as a result of a poor diet when he was a baby, but admits that she doesn’t know.
“When he was a baby, he was often sick. He would be in hospital for days at a time. He was very malnourished,“ she says. For Jessy Sade, the future is brighter. Her husband returned recently from South Africa, where he had been working as a migrant labourer, and has joined her in her tree nursery business.
Her older kids all have found jobs, and her eldest daughter recently became a mother. She is a proud grandmother. Using better farming techniques and by planting better quality seed stock, she has increased the quantity of food she can harvest from her 1.5 acres farm, and is confident of increasing her income once she starts selling tree seedlings.
“When I start to sell my trees I plan to buy wood and tin sheets, and replace the existing grass roof on my house,” she said. “In the future I would also like to open up a small shop.”