In 2019, we introduced polytunnel farming in the North of Malawi. This approach to intensive farming is virtually unknown in the area, yet we see it as a great solution to the issue of land ownership. In Northern Malawi, land is passed down through the male side of the family which means women are not economically empowered: they do work in the fields, but the men tend to control the income at harvest time.
With support from Guernsey Overseas Aid Committee, our programme has become well-established and each Polytunnel is owned and managed by 3 women working as a co-operative. The technical name is Controlled Environment Agriculture and we see so many benefits for women in Malawi:
- Crops can be grown all year round, rather than depending on seasons which are increasingly unpredictable
- There are fewer insect and fungal attacks, reducing the need for chemical spraying
- Water and fertiliser can be applied in optimum quantities for each plant, reducing costs and wastage
- A Polytunnel beside the family home can be managed by women alongside their childcare and household responsibilities
- This is smart farming, using your brain more than your physical abilities, meaning that some women with disabilities can also benefit
All these advantages add up to better crops, in bigger quantities, and so higher household incomes. Bringing Good News to the poor!
In 2020 we are implementing our “From Plant to Plate” project which will see more polytunnels deployed and the women receiving training in post-harvest handling of crops. In Malawi, a lot of fruit and vegetables are lost through damage and decay between harvesting and selling the produce. We are delighted that the Scottish Government, through their Climate Justice Innovation Fund, are working with us to tackle this issue. In Summer 2020 we are building a solar powered Chilled Produce Store and supplying cropping baskets to the women, so the crop can be cared for from the moment it is picked and the chilled environment will extend shelf life, helping with marketing of the produce.