The report below on the 2009 season explains how the maize irrigation project operates.
In 2010, it is intended to run the irrigation cycle twice in the dry season. The reason for this is the rains in the region failed in Janaury - March and so the harvest was poor. Jones, the agricultural advisor to the project advised villagers to plant potatoes and cassava to make use of the rain that came late in the season.
While the stream was low, the opportunity was taken to improve the water catchment for the irrigation scheme, using a loan for cement. The film on the home page includes a clip of Jones explaining about the wish to improve the dam. The pictures below show the work being done. Loans are now being given to farmers for fertilizer for the next irrigated crop, but there are now 200 farmers wishing to take part. Jones attends meetings with local government and non-governmental bodies and in July 2010 secured 20 x 50 kg bags of fertilizer for the project, enough for 100 farmers.
Also in July, Jones was provided with funds from the project to travel to Lilongwe to collect a donation of farming tools.
This is a report on the 2009 season.
The top picture shown right is the maize being harvested. The project has been funded by loans for four 50 kg bags of fertilizer. Loans were repaid on 30 November 2009.
The fertilizer was broken into 10kg bags and distributed to the club of smallholder farmers in the village who tend the irrigated maize fields. The picture below shows the fertilizer being weighed.
The maize was sold as fresh, green maize as a cash crop. Some of the proceeds go back to the project to pay for the fertilizer. The picture below is of the local market.
The agricultural advisor employed by the project, Jones, started the irrigation scheme with just 7 farmers last year, totally through self-help. Given its success, many more farmers want to participate. Land is loaned to the project and prepared by the farmers' club into beds with channels leading to nearby rivers.The beds are manured and maize seeds planted. When this germinates, fertilizer is applied. When it is knee high, about four weeks later, a second round of fertilizer is applied.
Once per week, water is diverted into the channels to irrigate the beds. The maize is harvested after a total of 90 days to be sold as 'green maize' (corn on the cob) as a cash crop.
The farmers then prepare the land for the owner to plant seeds for the seasonal rains for food for the entire year. The owner also benefits from the residual manure and fertilizer - it is only necessary to apply the second round of fertilizer. So more and more people in the village are prepared to lend suitable land.
You can see a short clip of the irrigation process below.
After selling the maize, the farmers pay the project for the fertilizer, with a small mark up to build a cash reserve for fertilizer - this is still less than the farmers would pay for a 10kg bag (if they had the cash up front) because the project is able to buy in bulk.
You may wish to donate the fertilizer to build the stock. In any case, farmers will pay the project when they sell the maize, so it becomes sustainable.
Payment is best made by cheque to reduce deductions. Make your pledge here and you will then receive details of how to pay and how you will be paid back.
Once the money is returned, you might like to lend it again to another Mbewa Self-Help Project initiative. The next project is a big one: the maize mill.
After adding this to the basket, you will have the opportunity to make a donation to cover transfer and exchange costs (not obligatory) - see the terms and conditions.
Maize harvest October 2009
The maize in September 2009
The Mbewa Self-Help Project has hired an agricultural advisor with the help of funds from friends in the UK.
Jones has been running the chicken project and has also introduced some of his own innovations.
Here he is explaining about the fish farms where Chambo - a large fish found in Lake Malawi - is raised.
The initial fingerlings (small fish) were purchased with funds from the UK.
Now the adult fish are breeding, fingerlings are transferred to a second pool to provide the next stock of fish.
A third pool is also used to fatten the fish.
This also serves as a store of water for irrigating maize fields.
The water is channelled through specially constructed fields.
Fences made from old maize stalks and bamboo are being set around the fields to protect them from animals.
This will enable the fields to produce two crops per year.
The first off-season maize can be sold as 'green maize' at a premium price to raise money for fertilizer.
Manure and maize husks are matured in a pit to apply to the fields prior to planting.
The chicken project and the fish and irrigation project are overseen by a committee elected by villagers. Here Mike, back in Malawi after 13 years, meets some of its members with the Chief.
The Mbewa Self-Help Project (UK) raises funds for projects in Mbewa Village, Malawi.