As the hot summer air wafts through Nkhotakota,
a group of women from Thondo village sing joyfully,
oblivious to the glaring sun, as they take turns to
water their near ripe crop of maize. Down stream,
another group is busy making seed beds in preparation
for another crop.
The mood is jovial and the atmosphere is worry
free. Everyone seems to like what they are doing.
But a year ago these women couldn’t afford to smile.
Their crops were washed away and hunger wrecked
havoc in their families.
“As a woman, it hurts to see my children cry with
hunger. It’s more painful as a mother to tell them
that I don’t have any food to give them. In their eyes
I am supposed to provide for them but knowing that
I can’t do anything is heartbreaking. That feeling of
desperation is the one that brought us together as
women to drive hunger away from our families,” says
Grace Kalowa who is chairperson of the twenty
member, Kathyothyo Women Irrigation Club.
She adds: “We couldn’t wait for another hunger
spell to start irrigation. We learnt the hard way and
didn’t want that kind of thing to happen again.”
But their first effort was a demotivating experience.
Armed with confidence and resolve, the women went
on to plough the loamy river bank close to their
village. The results of their first attempt didn’t justify
their hard work. And this left most of them dejected
and with waning confidence in the new project.
They had heard of irrigation farming on the radio
but they had no knowledge of how it works. Seeing
the potential of this group, Concern offered to help
them find their feet by giving them start up inputs
and extension knowledge on irrigation.
“Although we desperately wanted to improve our
food situation by embarking on irrigation farming, we
had no knowledge on how to start or where to get
Fortunately Concern came to our rescue. It was
like a confidence booster because of all the people
we approached, they were the only ones who
believed in our big dreams,” says Kalowa
But why did the women not involve their husbands
in the group?
“We have lived for so many years with our husbands
and know very well their attitude towards progressive
women. They always want to impose whatever they
think is right on us, and we felt that with this kind of
behaviour we won’t move forward.
“Men will always find something to put in their
stomachs, but it’s up to me as a mother to make sure
that my children have had something to eat,” Kalowa
However, the men have not been sidelined
completely: “We tell our husbands that they should
also take part in the cultivation of the fields, but we
made it clear that this is not a ticket for them to
meddle in our club’s affairs, she says, adding that
the men now understand “why the women took this
The group, which now has about 8 hectares under
cultivation, feels they have defeated hunger once
and for all.
“I can now see a big change in our lives. Currently,
we are harvesting some of our maize and the other
crop will be ready in a few weeks time. We have
already sold part of crop as green maize and the
money we realized has been deposited in our village
savings and loan account.”
“Concern taught us how to save money which we
realize after selling our surplus crop. We use part of
the money to lend each other as capital for small
businesses,” she said.
In addition, the group has also benefited from a
goat pass on project. They received twenty goats
from Concern as a means to build their asset base.