In line with Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number 1 which promotes eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, ZOE is investing in agriculture among orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in Madisi, Dowa district, Malawi. ZOE provides assistance to develop agriculture, improve food security and increase the income of the OVCs in Madisi.
By empowering OVCs like Chimwemwe Chizula, 19 years old, who takes care of his two sisters 8 and 5, ZOE is making sure its efforts reach the entire household to improve long term food security and help break the cycle of hunger. Chimwemwe lost his father when he was 15 years old, his mother got married again to a man who did not want to take care of the children. This left Chimwemwe with no choice but to head the household. He dropped out of school, working in other people’s maize fields and tobacco plantations to make ends meet. With the coming of ZOE, he has leased 2 hectares of land to plant maize, which is the staple food of Malawi.
Chimwemwe and his two sisters at their maize field
“This is a great day in my life, I have land to farm. I will be able to feed myself and my sisters and keep some for sale. I mean, through my working group, ZOE is leading me to a life of self-reliance and enable me to meet my own basic needs and build better futures for my sisters” explained Chimwemwe
Chimwemwe at his 2 hectare land, planting maize
The two sisters helping Chimwemwe in planting
Mercy planting with Chimwemwe
Some of the self reliant actions ZOE takes include:
1. Income Generating Activities- This enables the OVCs to increase their incomes, so that they can purchase the food they need to survive during periods of food shortage.
2. Food banks – As it is in other countries where ZOE operates, each group in Madisi will have a food bank (it is their first farming season) to which the OVCs will contribute maize, both those grown on the communal land as well as a percentage from their own household plots. Empowering the OVCS to create, stock and manage their own food banks at the group level helps stabilize food security at household level.
Food banks enable OVCs to not only increase crop yield, but also to diversify crops, which is critical to ensuring food security at household level. Members of a working group give back a certain percentage of their crop to the food bank as repayment for their agricultural inputs. The success of the food banks ensures that members of a working group have access to staple foods year-round, and particularly during the dry season, as well as during emergencies such food crisis, floods or droughts.
3. Agricultural trainings – ZOE works with government agriculture extension aids department in Madisi to train the OVCs to grow an increased variety of organic crops.
Therefore, ZOE also contribute to building confidence and shifting OVCs’ mind-set from one of dependency on outside help to one of self-reliance. ZOE children often remark that they feel more empowered to solve their own problems and make a difference in their villages. This change in mind-set manifests itself in an increased capacity to deal effectively with crises when they occur.
ZOE, empowering OVCs to end their own hunger!!!!!!
By Mercy Chikhosi Nyirongo