Over the last few years, things have visibly changed for the better in Mnembo, Malawi as a result of an Oxfam-funded irrigation scheme.
Agricultural land in Malawi is becoming over-farmed and increasingly infertile. Harvests are getting smaller. Rainfall is increasingly erratic which leads to frequent and severe droughts, or destruction of crops when the rains are intense and unpredicted. Both result in food shortages.
However, by learning how to manage their water resources has helped to improve the lives of 400 families by transforming their traditional small low-yield crops into year-round, high volume harvests that provide continuous food and a source of income. The community is now totally self sufficient.
Farmers have pooled their labour to harvest and sell their produce in bulk. In addition to bigger and better maize harvests, the newly irrigated land enables the community to diversify and grow cash crops. They now grow wheat, rice and tomatoes, which are particularly profitable.
Leyla Kayere is 76, and all for the changes: "I have lived here all of my life. When I was growing up agriculture was not as advanced as it is now. We didn't know anything about irrigation. We only used to grow cassava and millet – to eat, not to sell. There were occasionally wild tomatoes but we had no method for growing them. I couldn't live without tomatoes now."