In Malawi, southeastern Africa, up to ninety percent of the country’s population relies on farming for their livelihood. Last year, to improve agricultural productivity, the Tzu Chi Foundation started an experimental farming project. Volunteers provided hands-on guidance to teach residents how to improve the quality of their crops through methods like dividing and replanting.
In Taiwan, farming has largely moved into the mechanical age; in Malawi, it still heavily relies on manual labor. For instance, they vigorously beat rice stalks against stones to release the grains, and then collect them. The people of Malawi were curious about Taiwanese farming methods and asked: "Is it the same in Taiwan? Do you do it like this?" A Tzu Chi volunteer responded: "Oh no, we don't do it like this; we use machines.”
Tzu Chi volunteers visited Chikwawa, a district in southern Malawi, and learned that residents woke up at 4 am, walked for at least half an hour, worked in the fields until 10 am, and then returned home to do household chores. To improve their income, Tzu Chi introduced the farming experiment project.
Ya-Chi Yuan (袁亞棋), a Tzu Chi volunteer from South Africa, said: "We have been caring for this village since the Anna cyclone in 2022 and have implemented several sustainable farming projects to help them."
Residents Cooperation Improves Farming Project
The projects were helped by a strong sense of mutual support among the residents of the village. After the Freddie cyclone in 2023, villagers switched to cultivating Malawi's second-largest cash crop, white sesame. Hallen Khembo, a local farming expert and Tzu Chi volunteer, taught local farmers how to increase their yields through methods like dividing and replanting. By April, Hallen had visited the area four times, and the results were becoming apparent.
Ya-Chi said: "Just now, I checked with some of our farming experts. The sesame fields are looking really beautiful. In total, they have around four hectares of land, and the sesame fields have developed quite well."
To expand the tribal farming project, volunteers and tribal leaders conducted surveys and assessments in places like Blantyre, Chikwawa, and Nsanje. They also arranged village meetings with tribal chiefs.
Volunteers discovered that the tribal communities thrived on a spirit of mutual assistance. While men worked the fields, women gathered under the trees to cook together, sharing tasks and meals. Despite poverty, these communities ensured that no family went without food and took care of each other.
Based on these findings, Ya-Chi expressed deep hope for the future of the farming project: “So we look forward to more and better projects in the future to make these villages self-sustaining through mutual support and ongoing development.”
A Jing Si Aphorism says: “Everyone supporting and loving one another brings a bright hope to our troubled world.”
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Report by Frank Chu, Ya-Chi Yuan, and Daud-Kazembe; Malawi | 20230524