Theresa and William have 4 children and have lived in the same village in Dowa District for over 25 years, where life has been hard. Before this project came to their village, they lived in a small brick house with grass roofing and had a lot of challenges.
Theresa said: ‘We did not have adequate food, no livestock and our children were not going to school. Sometimes we ate once a day, at most we ate twice a day. It was painful and we did not have real peace.’
They were often hungry and she said that was hardest on her children: ‘It was worse for our children because children need to eat more frequently than us but they could only eat once or at most twice a day so it was very painful for them. Even school fees were difficult.’
Tearfund's local partner, Ministry of Hope, knew the challenges people in the area had and in 2015, with funding from the Scottish Government, they started the KSLIP project to address issues of poverty and hunger in communities.
When the project started working in her village, Theresa quickly signed up to join a self-help group (SHG) with 19 other women in her community. After they received training, they started meeting weekly to save small amounts together and to build up resources that they would eventually use to lend to each other to help start businesses, to enhance existing businesses and to buy essentials for the home.
Theresa explained: ‘At first it was only women in the group, but I was glad when my husband also joined after realising the benefits - we were happy doing things together.’
The self help group was also trained in climate smart agricultural techniques called 'Conservation Agriculture' and in how to make locally produced fertiliser. After this training, Theresa and William made 15 bags of locally produced fertiliser and in the first year, they harvested 20 ox carts of maize (approx. 6000kgs). In previous years, they had only managed a harvest of 2 ox carts at the most (600kgs).
Although they own 15 acres of land, previously they only had enough fertiliser to cultivate 1 acre and they did all the farming themselves. Now they cultivate 10 acres and employ up to 20 people during peak farming periods and rent out the remaining 5 acres. They want to buy more land in the future.
‘We have also learned how to eat healthy food and how to keep good sanitation. We are now more peaceful. When we lie down to sleep, we sleep. We do not worry about tomorrow.’
‘We now eat up to 5 times a day. We have porridge for breakfast and nsima with relish for lunch or dinner. We sometimes drink tea. We eat beans, vegetables and event meat. We didn't eat meat before. We now eat chicken, cow meat, goat meat and can alternate between maize and rice.
‘At first our children were not strong, now they are strong and healthy. Life is now much easier. We have money and can buy what we need. We are not miserable any more. Life is very sweet.’
Theresa and William did not own any livestock before the project but as a result of large harvests over the last 3 years and businesses they have done using loans from the SHG, they now have 10 cows, 17 sheep, 12 goats and 17 chickens – an amazing turnaround. They have built a much larger house with iron sheets on the roof and have even installed electricity to power their first television.
‘We have reserves of money. We have enough money for farming and even money left over to buy things for the house. We were sleeping on a floor; now we sleep on a bed. Before we had no chairs, now we have chairs to sit on. Our farming has changed. We now farm more food.’
‘Our children are more free. Whenever they want to eat, they can eat. Before, they were miserable, now they can go to school. My biggest joy is that now we are not lacking anything and our children can continue their education.’
The self help group is going from strength to strength. They started a nursery school for children in their community in 2016 and have over 100 children attending. They have 4 teachers that rotate and other women from the village also help out. Each self help group household contributes maize so the children can have porridge while they are there. The group also opened an adult literacy class and has 30 people attending.