Islamic Relief is providing vulnerable Malawian families with a route out of food insecurity, as the country’s hunger crisis deepens. Around 1.85 million people now face hunger in Malawi, following late rains and a poor harvest.

Longer than usual hunger season

Late rains, which delayed planting, have extended Malawi’s usual hunger season to March. Rainstorms have seen floods affecting over 7,000 families in 17 districts.

Almost 2,500 hectares of cropland has been hit by an outbreak of armyworms and red locusts in 14 districts, with around 21 per cent of crops destroyed. In the seven districts reporting severe damage to crops, over 6,100 households have been affected.

More than half of districts targeted by emergency nutrition responses, have seen a higher number of admissions to therapeutic feeding programmes.

An environmentally-friendly and long-term solution

Islamic Relief’s latest project in Malawi – which began in May 2013 – aims to provide vulnerable families in Machinga and Zomba districts with a secure means of earning a living.

Islamic Relief has already constructed three fish ponds in Machniga – stocked with around 3,000 fish – so families can farm and sell fish, as well as benefit from a sustainable source of food.

The ponds are overseen by an elected committee of 60 local people – made up largely of women – and will be harvested twice a year.

Natural sources of water are used to fill the ponds, and organic manure is used to encourage water plants to grow as food for the fish. Using simple methods of farming, the project is training local people to look after and to breed the fish.

Vegetable-growing is also being established to provide a further source of income and nutrition for the communities. Vegetable plots will be set up next to the ponds, and nourished by organic manure. Communities will benefit from training provided by the government of Malawi’s Department of Horticulture.

Islamic Relief, which has been working in Malawi since 2006, also intends to build three ponds in Zomba district, serving the communities of Domasi Traditional Authority.

Around 1,100 people are expected to benefit from the project, which is due to be completed next spring.