On March 13th, 2019, members of the Mawandiwe Irrigation Club were trained on making organic fertilizer by using locally sourced materials.Read More
With successful tests under our belts, we have stepped up our work on the windmill irrigation scheme at Mziza. We have come up with a reservoir system that will act as a buffer between the pumping and delivery structures.
Expected benefits are:
- Water is available on demand
- Water will be under pressure at the top of the delivery system (and at the bottom if we use pipes instead of canals)
- The volume of water pumped into the tank can be easily recorded
- Farmers will know exactly how much water they are applying to the field (with the exception of evaporation)
Downsides to this system are: the capital cost of the reservoir (i.e. cement ain't cheap); evaporation will be greater in the reservoir than in the well; standing water attracts mosquitoes (and watering at dusk may put farmers at risk of malaria). There is not much that can be done to reduce capital costs because structural integrity should not be compromised. A crack in the floor of a house does not affect the utility of the house; whereas a crack in the reservoir floor is catastrophic. Every insurance must be made that the concrete will not crack. As for evaporation and mosquitoes, a simple covering over the reservoir will reduce these problems significantly.
- Mziza, Lilongwe.
- Chibanzi, Dowa
- Kaduwa, Lilongwe (with Collective Hope)
- Chitedze, Lilongwe (with African Bible College students)
- Mponela, Dowa (with Biwi Home-based Care)
- Dedza Saw Mill (with Julian and Nora)
- Dedza (with African Bible College students)
The trainings will take place throughout the year. There are seven lessons centered around a demonstration plot. (Pictured above is the Mzumala Agriculture Club at their demonstration plot.) The 7 lessons in chronological order:
- Crop residue and mulching
- Planting technique
- Use of fertilizer and compost
- Weed, pest, and disease control
- Crop rotation and farm planning
A demonstration plot for Conservation Agriculture is comprised of 8 subdivision of 10 sq. meters each. The first subdivision demonstrates the farmers' traditional method of growing maize. The second demonstrates CA techniques using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The third demonstrates an integrated fertilizer/compost technique. The fourth is CA applied to soya, groundnuts, or beans. And the 5th through the 8th are a repetition of the first 4.
On 11 April 2011, Africa Windmill Project will install 30 water pumps. Well, if we can’t manage to do it all in one day it may take us the whole week. But by the end of that week, Mwakhundi and the Mziza Farming Club will have the means to irrigate 15 acres.
The rains may persist well past mid-April. Also, some farmers have used their dimba gardens (wetland gardens) to plant maize, sweet potato, or rice. In any case, whenever the farmer is ready to plant a winter crop, his irrigation system will be in place.
Shortly after the installation of 30 water pumps, butternut squash will be ready for sale. The market for this is sweetening as time goes by. One grocery store is importing this crop and paying MK150/kg ($1/kg or $0.45/lb). We think we will profit quite nicely at MK50/kg, so we’ve got MK100/kg to bargain with. Consumers pay between MK200/kg and MK320/kg. We would also like to see consumer prices down to under MK200/kg to reach a wider base and maybe push up demand and open new markets (such as those in poorer townships and outskirts of town).
Aside from the work we are doing within the community, we’ve discovered a substantial demand within the NGO sector for agriculture training. Many NGOs are discovering that credibility within a community means meeting people on their own terms. And that means NGOs can’t sweep in with projects about health or education, and expect results, without at least addressing the critical issues of agriculture: water management, soil management, and crop management. This just confirms what the data shows: Malawians live on $1 a day, while farming income is under-reported. So if an NGO wants to train a group of tailors or brick layers, that NGO has to account for the fact that such professions will not usually earn enough income to forgo farming. Instead, the tailor earns money to pay for household goods, school fees, and luxuries, while he and his family till the land for food.
What does this mean for AWP? About every two weeks, I get a call from someone who wants to know if we can help them with irrigation projects or dryland agriculture. It’s not their specialty, but it’s vital to their work. So far we have tentative plans to bring training to three other NGOs: one in each Lilongwe, Dedza, and Dowa districts. It seems most of these groups are in the home-based care category of NGOs. These organizations assist people, usually widows, orphans, disabled, or sick, in their own homes within the traditional safety nets of the culture, usually extended family and church.