More than 20,000 Malawian smallholders have been helped to feed their families and earn a living thanks to a SNP Government funded project.
Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf visited a farm near Lilongwe, Malawi, and met some of the farmers who have been helped by the project, delivered by Oxfam.
The project, which ran from 2012-2015 and received £382,238 funding from the SNP Government, was designed to enable women farmers to improve their livelihoods and better face the challenges of climate change.
The project has trained 19,241 women and 3,609 men, and overall crop production has increased from 64,530 tonnes of soya beans, ground nuts and beans to 280,020 tonnes. Previously, the farmers had not been able to sell their produce, but thanks to the project they are now able to sell their goods and receive an income.
Mr Yousaf said:
“It was great to meet some of the women who have been involved in this project and learn about the real difference it’s made to their lives.
“From being better able to feed their families, to being able to put a little money aside for an uncertain future, this project has allowed many people in Malawi to enjoy things we in Scotland can take for granted.
“This visit marks ten years of Scotland’s special relationship with Malawi, and our strong links are very important to us. It’s inspiring to hear first-hand how lives are being transformed thanks to the partnership between our countries.”
Carol Kayira-Kulemeka, Livelihoods Resilience Manager for Oxfam Malawi, said:
"The SNP Government's support made this project possible and it has been a real success, reaching over 20,000 people and surpassing our original targets. The women farmers involved have seen real improvements in their social and economic status, and developed vital skills.
“The success of this project has also led to further livelihood projects being run by Oxfam and our partners in Malawi."
Evenele James, a 40-year-old mother of two and grandmother of four, never thought business was for her until she joined the project and received 10kg of soybean seed and harvested 150kg at the end of the season. She’s used some to feed her family but has also started a soybean fritter business. She said:
“I prepare fritters worth MK 1,500(£2.28) every two days and make a MK1,000 profit. I use the profit to buy household necessities like salt, soap, sugar, clothes and other household needs. I also save money, between MK600 and MK1000 (91p to £1.52) each and every week.
“Taking care of my grandchildren is not a problem anymore as I prepare soybean porridge twice a day, hence their healthier look.”
The project has also encouraged women to use new low fuel stoves to cook their food, using much less firewood.
Lofina Faneul is one of the women the project has helped. She has now bought a fuel efficient stove which means she needs to gather less wood. She said: “At first I could use one bundle of firewood to prepare a meal for my family, but since I have bought a low energy stove, I am using far less wood. Apart from saving wood, it is faster than three stones, and produces much less smoke.
“Initially, I had doubts about purchasing it because I thought it was expensive but after using it for a few days, I realised that it was no longer expensive, the MK 3,500 (£5) I paid for the stove is good value compared to using an open fire because I was also was forced to buy more firewood, because the trees around our house cannot sustain us.”