Imagine you open your kitchen cupboard today and find just one bowl of cereal, one serving of spaghetti, and one teaspoon of sugar. What would you do? Buy some more, right? Borrow from the neighbour... Would you wait for tomorrow? Probably not.
Now suppose your neighbour also has only one day's food, the corner grocery is empty, and the mega-super grocery chain is stocked with things you could afford to eat once a year on Christmas or Easter.
You would know then that you are insecure... If you can imagine what that would be like, or if you have experienced it, you would be heartbroken and hopeless. That's a yearly, if not daily, feeling for many Malawians.
But it doesn't have to be! Farmers we work with have started to realize this. And their starting point is to grow more food before their cupboards are bare. Malawians depend heavily on maize to provide starch and calories in their diet. If they run out of maize before the next harvest, it is very difficult to produce enough calories to make up the difference. Households that plan and know their maize will not last at their current consumption can include a variety of foods in their diets now that will help their maize stock last longer.
By supplementing their maize diet with sweet potato, cassava, potato, beans, yams, and fresh vegetables, Malawians get a more balanced diet and stretch a light maize harvest over the whole year. Doing this, they may begin to see benefits of a healthy diet today, while also avoiding hunger later on.
This was the message AWP brought up during a group-village meeting of community leaders and chiefs at Mziza last month.
Currently, 90% of AWP club members and 75% of the broader community have planted sweet potatoes on irrigation. Many farmers have gone even farther. This community stands a good chance of avoiding hunger this year despite the expected poor maize harvest. They are being proactive, planting supplemental crops before harvesting maize!
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