Livelihood initiative helps poor women build community resilience

A member of the ‘Sekandikudyele’ group with a juice extracting machine © Tearfund


Chididi Village, in southern Malawi, has been devastated by frequent droughts, resulting in chronic food insecurity among the poorest. With each drought year, the villagers have taken increasingly extreme measures, including selling livestock and household assets to buy food. Men started migrating to neighbouring Mozambique or to towns to find work, and returned home infected by HIV which they passed on to their wives. With time, due to illness, the main bread-winners could no longer work. Many elderly women have been left to look after their orphaned grandchildren - who they marry off early if they cannot afford to keep them in school. As a result, these households became dependent on yearly food aid. In early 2006, UK-based non-governmental organisation Tearfund initiated a livelihood diversification project through micro and medium-scale enterprise development for poor women in the village. The initiative was taken following a risk assessment that identified low agricultural productivity and lack of alternative livelihoods as the sources of growing poverty and vulnerability.

Local varieties of fruit trees are grafted with hybrid varieties that produce more juice and can withstand drought. The fruits (mangoes, pineapples, lemons and papaya) are then juiced, bottled and sold. The project has enabled some women to build fortified houses with iron roofing from the proceeds of the businesses. Others have invested into agriculture and reported bumper harvests that have made them food secure, selling excess crops to aid household asset recovery and buy items like soap and clothes. Girls are kept in school longer, thanks to the money earned from the businesses.

The community members are confident that they can now deal with shocks, as they now have a coping mechanism.

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